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Germany Sectors

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

After a significant increase throughout the 1990s, emissions from transport in Germany started declining in 2000, but increased again after 2009. After a significant decrease by 11% in 2020 – mostly due to pandemic and recession, emissions increased by 1% in 2021.

The accelerating electrification of transport in recent years provides an explanation for the slow emissions increase despite economic recovery: in 2021 over 26% of new vehicles sold in Germany were electrically chargeable (either hybrid or fully electric). This share increased to almost 34% in the last quarter of that year.27 However, emissions intensity of German car fleet is still relatively high, at 113 gCO₂/km compared to the EU’s average at 108 gCO₂/km, mostly due to the level of combustion engine vehicles still on the market.28

1.5°C compatible scenarios indicate that electrification of transport could be the main driver of the sector’s decarbonisation. By 2030 the share of electric vehicles could increase to up to 44% and 75% by 2050. Some of the scenarios assume limited contribution from hydrogen and biofuels, but especially the latter comes with the challenge of competing with food production and potentially higher emissions from the LULUCF sector in Germany and beyond.

In addition to promoting low carbon vehicles, Germany could also look into opportunities to reduce the need for car ownership by development of alternatives, such as public transport and local railway connections.

Compatibility with the 1.5°C scenarios requires a full decarbonisation of the transport sector by between 2048 and 2052.

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.

Germanyʼs energy mix in the transport sector

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020502 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020502 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 000
  • Coal
  • Natural gas
  • Oil and e-fuels
  • Biomass
  • Biofuel
  • Biogas
  • Electricity
  • Heat
  • Hydrogen

Germanyʼs transport sector direct CO₂ emissions (of energy demands)

MtCO₂/yr

Unit
5010015019902010203020502070
  • Historical emissions
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • Low Energy Demand

1.5°C compatible transport sector benchmarks

Direct CO₂ emissions and direct electrification rates from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for Germany

Indicator
2019
2030
2040
2050
Decarbonised transport sector by
Direct CO₂ emissions
MtCO₂/yr
160
65 to 75
24 to 30
0 to 10
2048 to 2052
Relative to reference year in %
−60 to −53%
−85 to −81%
−100 to −94%
Indicator
2019
2030
2040
2050
Share of electricity
Percent
2
10 to 44
27 to 65
32 to 75
Share of biofuels
Percent
5
12 to 19
16 to 32
16 to 48
Share of hydrogen
Percent
0
3
10 to 41
23 to 44

Footnotes