German climate policy

Germany has also set itself ambitious climate targets. With the 2010 energy concept, which builds on the Integrated Energy and Climate Programme of 2007, targets were set out for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency. The main objective of the energy concept is to ensure a climate-compatible, reliable and affordable energy supply for Germany. This goal was also agreed on by the German government in the 2013 coalition agreement. The German government is also advocating the continued integration of this triad of targets at EU level: greenhouse gas reduction, expanding renewable energies and increasing energy efficiency.

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

A key goal of the German government’s climate policy is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. During the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, Germany set itself the target of reducing its emissions for the 2008 to 2012 period by an average of 21 percent compared with 1990. Germany significantly surpassed this target.

Germany set itself ambitious targets for reducing emissions with the energy concept of 2010: By 2020 emissions are to be reduced by at least 40 percent compared to 1990 and the aim for 2050 is a reduction of 80 to 95 percent (compared to 1990). These targets were reaffirmed in the coalition agreement.

Based on current projections of policy measures, it is estimates that, depending on economic developments, emissions in 2020 will only be about 33 percent below 1990 levels. A gap of 7 percent therefore needs to be closed in order to reach the 40 percent target.

Expansion of renewable energy sources

A large share of German emissions stems from the energy sector. It is therefore crucial for climate action that energy systems be restructured so as to significantly reduce climate damaging emissions. In response to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the German government decided in 2011 to gradually phase out nuclear power and set the energy transition in motion. The expansion of renewables thus plays an important role.

Expanding renewables and substituting fossil fuels will help significantly in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. No other instrument in Germany has brought about a comparable reduction in CO2 emissions. The latest calculations of the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat) show that in 2012 renewables contributed just under 145 million tonnes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2012 the share of renewables in electricity consumption was 23.6 percent. The share of renewables in overall final energy consumption in Germany from electricity, heat and fuels for the same year was 12.7 percent which is three times higher than its share in 2000. The share of renewables in heat generation stood at 10 percent in 2012, while its share in overall fuel consumption was almost 6 percent.

Based on decisions taken by the European Council in early 2007, the EU Renewable Energies Directive (2009/28/EC) entered into force in June 2009 which laid down corresponding targets at EU level: In accordance with the directive, 20 percent of gross energy consumption within the European Union will have to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. A target of 18 percent has been set for Germany. The German government is aiming for 60 percent of its gross energy consumption to be covered by renewable energy sources by the middle of the century. Furthermore, the coalition agreement lays down the goal of increasing the share of renewables in electricity generation to between 40 and 45 percent by 2025 and to between 55 and 60 percent by 2035.

Energy Efficiency

Energy input can vary depending on use, for example, for heating, lighting in apartments and other buildings. Reasons for this include varying levels of system losses during the generation, conversion, distribution and use of energy. The decrease in system losses will determine the increase in energy efficiency.

Increasing energy efficiency curbs rises in energy prices, decreases dependence on energy imports, mitigates the emission of climate-damaging greenhouse gases, increases security of supply and counteracts power distribution conflicts. It would be significantly more expensive to expand energy supply options than to make suitable energy savings. A welcome spin-off benefit expected from promoting energy efficiency is a positive net employment effect.

Efficiency in energy production can be increased, for instance, through power plants with higher electric efficiency or by increasing the recovery of heat in electricity generation (cogeneration of heat and power (CHP)). By doing so, more power and heat is generated with the same amount of fuel (energy sources) such as coal, oil and gas. The way energy is used can also be made more efficient: Options here include more energy efficient devices, prevention of no-load losses, the use of energy-saving lamps, improved thermal insulation, more efficient heating system technology, the use of speed-regulated electric drives such as those used for pumps and compressors or more efficient drives in the field of mobility.

We will not be able to reach our ambitious climate targets in Germany or in the EU without ambitious measures to increase energy efficiency in all economic sectors. Energy efficiency therefore plays a key role in climate action. To this end, the German government’s energy concept sets out ambitious, but feasible goals that are beneficial to the economy: By 2020 primary energy consumption is to be reduced by 20 percent compared to 2008 levels and by 2050 by 50 percent.

To achieve this, macroeconomic energy productivity will need to be increased by 2.1 percent annually. Another aim is to reduce to electricity consumption by 10 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2050 (compared to 2008). The current building modernisation rate of almost 2 percent in overall building stock will have to be doubled every year. In the transport sector, efforts will be directed towards reducing final energy consumption by about 10 percent by 2020 and about 40 percent by 2050, the baseline in this case being 2005.

In Germany, several scientific studies have shown that there is still great potential for energy savings across all economic sectors. In accordance with the coalition agreement of 2013, the German government will draw up and implement an action plan on energy efficiency to remove existing barriers and tap the economic energy efficiency potential as best as possible to benefit all sides. The BMUB is already taking a variety of steps to tap existing potential for achieving the climate targets.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors

Greenhouse gases are not just emitted in the energy sector. Quite significant levels are emitted in other sectors e.g. the waste sector, the agricultural sector and based on land-use and land-use changes.

The waste sector's contribution to climate action is considerable and plays a crucial role in meeting Germany's Kyoto targets. Above all, the ban on the landfilling of untreated waste and subsequent fall in methane emissions have led to large reductions in annual greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels. Raw material and fossil fuel savings realised through materials and energy recovery in particular have also contributed to these emission reductions. Substantial contributions are made through biowaste recovery, waste paper recycling, the recovery of scrap metal and packaging and refuse incineration. By 2020, further reductions could be achieved by increasing energy efficiency in energy recovery and using biowaste for energy generation.

The agricultural sector in Germany produces many of the foods we need on a daily basis e.g. meat, eggs, cereals, fruit and vegetables. However, due to this the agricultural sector produced 76 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012 which equates to 8 percent of German greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrous oxide (N2O), which arises from the use of agricultural land, and methane (CH4), which is produced from feeding and digestion in livestock and from manure, are the main sources of emissions in the agricultural sector. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a fall in both nitrous oxide and methane emissions. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture have fallen by 24 percent.

Economic opportunities arising from climate action

Climate action is an opportunity for the German economy: A report from 2013 on the macroeconomic impacts of climate action measures and instruments (Gesamtwirtschaftliche Wirkung von Klimaschutzmaßnahmen und Klimaschutzinstrumenten) showed that the current policy has already led to positive employment effects. Strengthening climate policy efforts would reinforce this positive effect even further and would create up to 200,000 more jobs by 2020.

Through its ambitious climate action and energy policy, Germany is standing by its global responsibility to combat climate change. At the same time, Germany is protecting its economic interest: In the near future, businesses will have to face the challenge of fossil fuels becoming increasingly scarce and having to manage against the backdrop of rising energy prices. By switching to renewable energy sources and promoting energy efficiency, the German government is ensuring that the economy can successfully adapt to these new conditions.