For the first time in a long time, germany made progress on climate protection in 2018. Greenhouse gas emissions fell by more than four percent, according to a forecast by the federal environment agency.
However, this was also due to the effects of the mild winter and the super summer. Less coal, oil and gas burned. In addition, electricity generation from renewable energies such as wind and solar power plants continued to rise.
A total of 868.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases were released last year – around 38 million metric tons or 4.2 percent less than in the previous year, according to a forecast by the german federal environment agency presented on tuesday.
For the first time after four years of stagnation, a significant reduction in emissions has been achieved compared to the previous year. Regardless of this, germany is in danger of falling far short of its national climate targets for 2020.
Significant drop in emissions according to forecast in the energy industry. This was also due to the fact that coal-fired power plants were taken off the grid. Germany to phase out climate-damaging coal-fired power generation by the end of 2038.
The consequences of the hot summer also contributed to the decline in greenhouse gas emissions. Persistent drought had led to low water levels in many rivers. In many cases, freighters were unable to navigate the rivers, leading to heating oil shortages and higher prices. According to the environment ministry, numerous customers may therefore have postponed the purchase of heating oil until 2019. The mild winter resulted in lower fuel requirements.
Greenhouse gas emissions also fell slightly in the transport sector – this is a turnaround, as emissions there had not fallen in previous years. One explanation, according to the environment ministry, could be higher prices for gasoline and diesel and consequently less consumption. Transport in particular is currently at the center of the political debate on climate protection. There is still a long way to go to reach the climate goals by 2030.
A commission set up by the german government had drawn up proposals for a phasing-out package. In addition, a price is being paid for the emission of the most important greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), which will make it more expensive to drive cars with high fuel consumption. However, the commission emphasized the importance of social contracts. Environment minister svenja schulze (SPD) is also in favor of a CO2 price with social compensation, but this is controversial within the coalition government.
According to the forecast for 2018, germany has so far reduced its emissions by 30.6 percent compared to 1990. However, emissions must be reduced by at least 55 percent by 2030, according to federal government targets.
The federal government wants to pass a climate protection law this year. Environment minister schulze wants fixed targets for each department – but this is meeting with resistance from within the union.
Schulze said 2018 was a special year in climate policy. On the one hand, the summer drought had shown that climate change was becoming more tangible. On the other hand, germany is making progress in climate protection. "But still have to speed up considerably."
Environmental groups called on the federal government to make more efforts. Energy expert michael schafer of the environmental protection organization WWF said that the slight decline in greenhouse gas emissions was not due to additional climate protection measures, but rather to a mild winter and temporarily more expensive oil. What is needed now is an effective climate protection law.
The german environmental aid group (DUH) also called for ambitious CO2 reduction targets for all sectors. "With the heatwave summer of 2018, we have witnessed climate change – that makes germany’s climate balance look kinder than it is," said DUH expert constantin zerger. Mild weather has led to significantly less heating, he said. "It would be fatal to rest on one’s laurels now."