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13 Apr 2022, 13:55
Kerstine Appunn

Germany reports higher emission intensity for first time since 2013

Clean Energy Wire

Greenhouse gas emission intensity, i.e. carbon emissions in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), last year increased in Germany for the first time since 2013, the Expert Council on Climate Change has said in its annual report. The council said that this development should be closely watched and will be the subject of a special report to be published in autumn 2022. For the past 30 years, decoupling economic activity and growth from greenhouse gas emission rise has made an important contribution to the overall decrease in emissions since 1990. In 2021, the growth in GDP was smaller (2.7% up compared to 2020) than the rise in primary energy consumption (3.1%). Moreover, more coal power and less renewables shifted the composition of primary energy sources, leading to higher CO2 emissions per unit of energy. 2021 was a particularly low wind year.

In the report, the council assessed the official 2021 emissions data, published one month ago by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which showed that the buildings sector failed its target for a second year in a row and the transport sector also fell short. The latter did so “despite the emission-reducing effects of rising fuel prices and the measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” the experts noted. All other sectors (energy, industry, agriculture, waste) stayed within their emission budgets. The ministries in charge of buildings and transport now have to present an action programme within three months, detailing measures that make up for the missed target. For the first time, an automatic banking and borrowing mechanism of the Climate Action Law will be initiated, increasing or decreasing annual emission levels in sectors where there has been an excess or shortfall of the respective annual emission threshold.

Germany adopted its first-ever major climate law at the end of 2019. It included binding annual greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for each economic sector for 2020-2030 and introduced the expert council as an independent supervisory body. Having completed the second audit since the law has come into effect, the experts also made suggestions for improvements, for example recommending instruments to tackle anticipated target failure and a stronger alignment with EU and national emissions trading. Germany’s overall aim is to reach climate neutrality by 2045.

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