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30 Jun 2021, 13:59
Edgar Meza

Germany's CO₂ emissions slightly rising again after pandemic-induced slump

Der Spiegel

CO₂ emissions in Germany and beyond fell to historic lows last year due to the COVID-19-related lockdowns, but initial figures for 2021 indicate emissions in the country are on the rise again despite public life remaining largely restricted, Jörg Römer writes in Der Spiegel. A colder winter and higher demand for heating oil contributed to the rise, according to a new report by think tank Agora Energiewende. The measures taken to contain the virus resulted in a dramatic decline in emissions in 2020 as people stayed at home, cars remained parked and aircraft grounded. In some cases, even industrial production was shut down. Global greenhouse gas emissions last year fell at times by 17 percent compared to the usual daily value of around 100 million tonnes, Römer notes. In Germany at the beginning of April CO₂ levels were 26 percent lower than usual. As a result, Germany not only achieved its climate protection targets for 2020 but even exceeded them, he adds. The think tank’s latest appraisal of the current year, however, shows a trend reversal, with CO₂ emissions in the first quarter rising slightly again by 2 percent compared to 2020 despite widespread lockdowns.

Following a landmark ruling by the constitutional court saying that parts of Germany's climate action law are insufficient - and an EU agreement to increase its 2030 climate target - German lawmakers recently decided a more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target as well. The country now aims to reduce emissions by 65 percent by 2030 (instead of by 55%) - a target which would be even harder to reach if emissions were to rise this year. Climate action has also developed into a key issue for the upcoming national election, as it tops the list of concerns of a majority of voters.

In a report based on quarterly figures released by market research group AG Energiebilanzen (AGEB), Agora found that in addition to increased heating oil, the proportion of electricity generated by wind turbines declined, resulting in more power generated by coal and natural gas power plants. This led to an increase in CO₂ emissions of 3 million tonnes compared to the same period in 2020 and a a total of 169 million tonnes. Taking into account primary energy consumption, which also includes upstream processes such as the extraction, transport or processing of raw materials, the proportion of individual energy sources increased by 26 percent for lignite, 9 percent for hard coal and 11 percent for natural gas. Agora’s findings, however, do not include emissions information from industrial processes, agriculture and land use as specific data for these sectors are not yet available.

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