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Germany Ambition gap

What is Germanyʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

1.5°C compatible pathways

In May 2021, the German government proposed to reduce emissions by 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. In June 2021, the new goal was enshrined in the amended Climate Protection Law.21 While it is step forward, the country has not yet aligned its policies to its target: current policy projections would result in emissions falling by only 49% by 2030.4

Compatibility with 1.5°C pathways requires Germany to increase its 2030 emissions reduction goal to 68-76% by 2030 below 1990 levels.

The new EU emissions reduction goal also makes it necessary for Germany to significantly increase its goal as it has a much higher capability to do more than most other EU member states. Germany’s emissions per capita are still quite high – over 20% above EU average.

Long term pathway

In addition to increasing its 2030 emissions reduction goal, the amendment of the Climate Protection Law from June 2021, also included an emissions reduction goal of 88% by 2040. Germany should reach net zero GHG by 2048. Current policies adopted by March 2021 would only result in emissions reduction of 67%.

This is a significant improvement from the initial version of the Climate Protection Law, however in order to be 1.5°C compatible, Germany should target emissions levels no higher than 27-84 MtCO₂e/yr or a reduction of 93-102% by 2050, including the use of BECCS, but excluding LULUCF emissions.30

While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries such as Germany, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier.

Recent studies indicate a potential of around 63 MtCO₂e/yr of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies by 2045 for Germany.5 Given that the land sector in Germany is limited, and even projected to become a source, the country would need to implement CDR technologies to compensate these remaining positive emissions.

1 BMU. Lesefassung des Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetzes 2021 mit markierten Änderungen zur Fassung von 2019. (2021).

2 Climate Action Tracker. Germany | Climate Action Tracker. (2020).

3 Climate Action Tracker. Germany’s proposed 2030 national target not yet 1.5˚C-compatible. (2021).

4 European Environment Agency. Trends and Projections in Europe 2020. (2020).

5 Agora Energiewende. Publication – Towards a Climate-Neutral Germany by 2045 (2021).

6 Deutscher Bundestag. Kohleausstiegsgesetz. 2020, 202 (2020).

7 Deutscher Bundestag. Gesetz für den Ausbau erneuerbarer Energien (ErneuerbareEnergien-Gesetz – EEG 2021). (2021).

8 Statistisches Bundesamt. Jährliche Erdgasimporte – Statistisches Bundesamt. (2020).

9 AG-Energiebilanzen. Strommix. (2021).

10 Handelsblattt. Ende der Windpark-Förderung: Gigantischer Rückbau der Windenergie. (2020).

11 Tagesschau. Energiewende in Deutschland: Der Windkraftausbau stockt massiv | tagesschau.de. (2021).

12 Umweltbundesamt. Previous year’s estimate of German greenhouse gas emissions for 2020. (2021).

13 European Environment Agency (EEA). Member States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emission projections. (2021).

14 Eurostat. Complete energy balances. (2022).

15 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Erneuerbare Energien in Zahlen. Umweltbundesamt (UBA) (2022).

16 Agora Energiewende. Die Energiewende im Corona-Jahr: Stand der Dinge 2020. (2021).

17 Eurostat. Complete energy balances. (2020).

19 Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland (SPD), Bündnis 90/Die Grünen & Freien Demokraten (FDP). Mehr Fortschritt wagen – Bündnis für Freiheit, Gerechtigkeit und Nachhaltigkeit. 68 (2021).

20 German Government. Entwurf eines Ersten Gesetzes zur Änderung des Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetzes. (2021).

21 Deutscher Bundestag. Deutscher Bundestag – Bundestag verschärft das Klimaschutzgesetz. (2021).

22 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Treibhausgas-Emissionen. Umweltbundesamt (UBA). (2022).

23 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Energieverbrauch nach Energieträgern und Sektoren. Umweltbundesamt (UBA). (2022).

24 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Entwicklung des Heizenergieverbrauchs (Brandenburg, 2002-2020). (2020).

25 Immoor, K. Green hydrogen for green steel made in Duisburg: STEAG and thyssenkrupp are planning joint hydrogen project. (2020).

26 thyssenkrupp. Klimastrategie von thyssenkrupp Steel Premium-Flachstahl, weniger von CO2. thyssenkrupp AG. (2021).

27 ACEA. Fuel types of new cars: battery electric 9.1%, hybrid 19.6% and petrol 40.0% market share full-year 2021. ACEA. (2022).

28 ACEA. Interactive map – CO2 emissions from new passenger cars in the EU, by country. ACEA. (2021).

29 Climate Analytics. Coal Phase Out Germany / Climate Analytics. (2020).

30 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available, thus we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

31 Benchmarks here provided are derived from the illustrative pathway CEMICS-1.5-CDR8_REMIND_1.7 (28 MtCO₂e) and the 25th percentile (47 MtCO₂e) of the analysis 1.5°C compatible pathways in this analysis, assessed by the IPCC SR1.5. See methodology section for more information.

32 Confirming previous analysis indicating that: “Germany needs to phase coal out of its electricity sector by 2030 to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement. This is earlier than the dates discussed so far by the Coal Commission, a body established to come up with a coal exit plan by the end of 2018.”29

33 According to the Carbon Contracts for Difference, investor in low carbon technology (e.g. low carbon steel) receives subsidy that amounts to the different between the cost of producing traditional product and the low carbon alternative. This amount is reduced by what the investor would have to pay in carbon price anyway, e.g. in the framework of the EU ETS.

34 Calculations based on new data from Umweltbundesamt (UBA): www.umweltbundesamt.de/themen/klima-energie/treibhausgas-emissionen.

35 This goal reflects the 55% emissions reduction goal. The new goal for the share of renewables is not yet clear.

Methodology

Germanyʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
−120%−100%−80%−60%−40%−20%0%19902010203020502070
Reference year
1990
1.5°C emissions level
−73%
2030 National target
−65%
Ambition gap
−8%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
2030 National target
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 1990
1 249MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

Accelerating development of renewables and an earlier coal phase-out would significantly reduce the emissions intensity of Germany’s electricity sector. However, Germany also needs to accelerate development of renewables in other sectors, especially in transport and heating. Importantly, all 1.5°C compatible scenarios lead to a decrease in energy consumption, in some cases by more than 50%. This indicates the need to increase energy efficiency, especially in the buildings and transport sectors.

Our analysis show that by 2050 almost all energy could be produced from renewables, with its shares increasing rapidly in all sectors in the 2020s and 2030s. Negative emissions in the form of biomass with CCS scale up slowly in the 2020s, but their share increases much faster in the 2040s. Scenarios with the highest improvements in energy efficiency and the fastest development of renewables, require the lowest share of negative emissions.

Methodology

Germanyʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
201920302040205010 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
201920302040205010 000
Low Energy Demand
201920302040205010 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
201920302040205010 000
  • Unabated fossil
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS

Germanyʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

−20002004006008001 00019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for Germany. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Indicator
1990
Reference year
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
1 249
812
333
295 to 402
118
74 to 192
57
−27 to 84
2048
Relative to reference year in %
−73%
−76 to −68%
−91%
−94 to −85%
−95%
−102 to −93%
Total CO₂
MtCO₂/yr
1 055
712
302
231 to 351
97
19 to 143
5
−58 to 49
2054
2044 to 2063
Relative to reference year in %
−71%
−78 to −67%
−91%
−98 to −86%
−100%
−106 to −95%

Footnotes