09 Jul 2021, 16:32
Edgar Meza

UPDATE: CO2 emissions in North Rhine-Westphalia down 45% compared to 1990 levels

UPDATE: Adds background information on climate policy and coal in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Clean Energy Wire

CO2 emissions in Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) fell significantly in 2020 to 45 percent below 1990 levels, according to preliminary figures released by the state’s Office of Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection (LANUV). Carbon dioxide emissions last year declined by 11 percent compared to 2019. Initial figures put the state’s total amount of CO2 equivalents emitted in 2020 at 203.5 million tonnes, compared to 368 million tonnes in 1990. “This means that we have almost doubled our lead over the rest of the country in terms of CO2 reduction to more than four percentage points,” said Andreas Pinkwart, NRW’s economic affairs and energy minister.Since 2017, NRW has increased spending on climate protection sevenfold, and made the phase-out from coal-fired power generation binding, Pinkwart added.

With this NRW implemented the federal government's 2020 coal exit law that ends coal fired power generation in Germany by 2038 at the latest. When passing a new climate protection law earlier this month, the NRW government made up of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Liberal Democrats (FDP) fell short of introducing more ambitious climate targets in the transport and industries sectors and refused making changes to the wind turbine distance rules that are considered necessary to ensure renewable energy expansion in the state. NRW state premier and the conservatives' chancellor candidate Armin Laschet has defended the controversial decision to continue licensing extensive lignite mining projects as a contribution to the country's energy supply security. Laschet's party's election programme has been criticised for its weak "business as usual" approach to climate and energy policy.

The LANUV’s preliminary figures also showed that the state’s energy sector reduced emissions by some 15.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents compared to 2019, or by around 15 percent. The decline is mainly due to the reduction in coal-fired power generation and an increasing share of renewable energies. The industry sector saw an 8.2 percent reduction to 46.9 million tonnes from 2019 to 2020, while the transport sector experienced an 11 percent drop due largely to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Compared to the national average, NRW scores better in terms of emission reductions: According to preliminary figures from the federal environment ministry, Germany achieved a nationwide greenhouse gas reduction of 40.8 percent last year compared to 1990. The reductions are likewise partly due to the lockdowns. Air traffic, for example, fell by around 62 percent in 2020, reducing emissions by 300,000 tonnes to some 200,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Energy market research group AG Energiebilanzen (AGEB) last year similarly reported a significant decline in energy consumption and CO2 emissions due to the pandemic.

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