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Climate change mitigation (Germany)

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German Federal Environment Agency
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German Federal Environment Agency
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23 Nov 2010
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German Federal Environment Agency
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original

Even the most stubborn sceptics can no longer deny that the climate is changing as a result of the man-exacerbated greenhouse effect. Observations over the past 100 years clearly show that the climate around the world has become warmer. Since the beginning of the 20th century the global annual average temperature has risen by 0.74 °C and the global average temperature has risen by 0.13 °C every decade over the last 50 years. By far the largest factor responsible for the increase in temperature observed since 1950 has been human activities from which considerable quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) have been released into the atmosphere.

In Germany alone the average air temperature increased by nearly 1 °C between 1901 and 2008 and the decade from 1990 to 1999 was the hottest in the course of the 20th century. Change can also be seen in rainfall patterns.

According to regional climate models climate in Germany is expected to see an increase in annual average temperatures of 1.5-3.5 °C by the end of this century compared to 1961-1990, together with a widespread reduction in summer rainfall, projected to be of a magnitude of 20-40 %. Unless appropriate adjustments are made, high summer temperatures combined with unusually low rainfall could lead to enormous problems in regions that are already experiencing droughts.

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original


Drivers at national level

Drivers at national level – energy consumption 

Germany’s primary energy consumption (PEC) – the energy value of all energy sources used – has, despite a growing economy, been on a slight downward trend since the early 1990s. In 2009 it was around 10.9 % less than in 1990. Variations in the downward trend in recent years have largely been due to the effect of weather conditions, since there is a noticeable increase in the demand for heating in a cold winter. In addition, energy-intensive basic industries were particularly badly hit by the economic downturn in 2009. PEC in Germany in 2009 was 13 341 PJ, of which 35 % came from oil, 22 % natural gas, 11 % hard coal and 11 % brown coal. Nuclear energy supplied 11.0% and renewables around 9 %. Other energy sources such as non-renewable waste and waste heat contributed 1 % of PEC.

Drivers at national level – transport

The striking increase in transport in Germany over the past twenty years – private motorised transport, air traffic and particularly road freight transport – is placing an increasing burden on the environment, since it adds considerably to emissions of climate-changing pollutants, noise pollution, land consumption and fragmentation. The Federal Government is introducing measures such as technical improvements to vehicles, increasing the share of non-motorised transport and greater use of more environmentally-friendly forms of transport such as rail, public transport and inland waterways in order to try to decouple economic growth from transport performance.

Modal split of passenger transport performance

Passenger transport performance grew by 24.9 % between 1991 and 2008, with private motorised transport increasing by 21.9 %, thus remaining as dominant as ever although its proportion of total passenger transport performance fell slightly from 81.6 % in 1991 to 79.6 % in 2008. But by far the biggest increase among all forms of passenger transport has been in air travel, which grew by 169 % in Germany between 1991 and 2008.Public transport by road and rail increased by 17 % over the same period, though as a proportion of total transport performance these two relatively more environmentally-friendly forms fell by 0.9 %. If non-motorised private transport – walking and cycling – is included in the transport performance figures, in 2007, the most recent figures, private motorised transport dominated with a share of 75.4 %, far ahead of walking, cycling, rail and public transport with 19.6 % combined.

Modal split of freight transport performance

The domestic freight transport performance grew by 67.4 % between 1991 and 2008. The biggest increases were in road freight transport, 92.4 %, whose share of freight transport performance rose from 61.4 % in 1991 to 70.6 % in 2008, largely at the expense of more environmentally-friendly rail and inland waterway transport. In 1960 these two still accounted for about the same percentage as road freight transport, but since then their share has fallen to less than 30 %. Starting from a low base, the air transport performance has more than tripled to 1.36 billion tkm.

Transport intensity of passenger and freight transport

Transport intensity looks at the freight and passenger transport performance in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), the idea being to decouple transport from economic growth.

In the period 1999 to 2008 freight transport intensity increased by 18.4 %, the reverse trend to that required for decoupling.

Passenger transport intensity fell over the same period by 9.1 %, a rate that is too low for true decoupling from GDP. Effectively transport has not yet been decoupled from economic development.

Pressures at national level

Emissions of the six greenhouse gases listed in the Kyoto Protocol

As part of the burden-sharing within the EU under the Kyoto Protocol, Germany has undertaken to reduce GHG emissions between 2008 and 2012 by an average of 21 % from the base year, 1990. In 2008 the reduction was already 22.2 %, which meant that Germany had delivered its commitments in the very first year of the target period. According to preliminary calculations by the Federal Environment Agency, GHG in 2009 fell by a further 80 million tonnes compared with 2008, a reduction of 28.7 % from 1990. This was mainly a result of the economic crisis – in the processing industry, and particularly in energy-intensive sectors, emissions fell by 20 % from 2008.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions formed a major part of this reduction: they fell by 68 million tonnes, 8.2 %. At around 87 %, CO2 accounts for the majority of Germany’s GHG emissions.

Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) each accounted for around 5.5 % of total GHG emissions in 2009. CH4 emissions fell slightly in 2009, by just over 3 % from 2008, largely as a result of reductions in waste treatment and the short-term decline in the energy and processing sectors. N2O emissions fell by 15 % from the previous year, mainly as a result of the sizeable reduction in the use of mineral fertilisers as well as the effects of the financial crisis.

A further 2 % of GHG emissions were caused by fluorinated gases. While emissions of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) remained almost the same, emissions of partially fluorinated hydrocarbons went up by 2.5 % because of their increased use in refrigeration. Emissions of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) increased by 1.9 %, largely as a result of the rise in the disposal of old soundproof windows, which release their insulating gas when destroyed.

CO2 emissions by source categories

In 2009 CO accounted for around 87 % of Germany’s GHG emissions. The reduction in CO2 emissions observed since 1990 is the result of economic restructuring in the new Länder with less reliance on brown coal, and the Federal Government’s active climate change mitigation policy. The largest proportion of CO2 emissions was produced, as in previous years, by the energy industry, 43 %, followed by household/commercial and road transport/other transport around 20 % each, and manufacturing industry/industrial processing with a combined figure of 17 %.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original


Responses at the national level – energy

Proportion of renewable energies in primary and final energy consumption

There has been a marked upward trend in renewable energies in recent years. According to provisional figures from the Federal Environment Ministry together they accounted for 8.7 % of the total PEC in 2009. This means that in 2009 Germany had already exceeded, by 4.5 percentage points, its target under the 2000 Sustainability Strategy of increasing the proportion of renewable energies in primary energy consumption by 4.2 % by 2010 compared to 2000 levels.

In terms of final energy consumption, renewable energies accounted for 10.4 % of the total in 2009. This broke down into a 16.3 % share of gross electricity consumption, an 8.8 % share of final energy consumption for heating and a 5.5 % share of fuel consumption.

Use of renewable energies for electricity production:

In 2009 Germany’s share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption reaching 16.3 % exceeded the 2010 target of 12.5 % set by EU Directive 2001/77/EC. The amended Renewable Energy Act, which entered into force in 2009, aims at increasing the share of renewables to a minimum of 30 % by 2020 and to achieve a further steady increase thereafter.

The growth in electricity production from renewables in recent years has particularly been the result of using wind energy, biomass and photovoltaics. In 2009 38.6 TWh of electricity were produced from wind energy, overtaking hydroelectricity as the most important renewable source of energy.

Use of renewable energies for heating:

The total heating produced from renewable energies in 2009 was around 115 TWh. The largest share of it, around 105.3 TWh, was accounted for by the use of biomass energy in private households, heating plants and combined heat and power stations, and industry. Solar energy accounted for around 4.7 TWh and geothermal energy for around 5.0 TWh. This meant that the total share of renewable energies in heating production was 8.8 %.

The Renewable Energies Heating Act (EEWärmeG) came into force in January 2009. Since then developers constructing a new building have been required – depending on the renewable technology in question – to use a certain proportion of renewable energy for the energy supply in their building, stipulated in the Act. Alternatively owners can improve building insulation or connect to a heating network.

The market incentive programme introduced in 1999 aims primarily at expanding the heat generation from biomass, solar power and geothermal energy has been particularly important for housing stock in offering aid in the form of investment grants and low-interest loans. In recent years the programme has played a major role in increasing heat production from biomass, solar energy and geothermal energy. The aim of the Renewable Energies Heating Act is to increase the proportion of renewable energies in final energy consumption for heating to 14 % by 2020.

Use of renewable energies in the transport sector:

For a number of years now greater use has been made of biogenic fuels in the transport sector. These are vegetable oils, biodiesel and bioethanol, which are used both in a pure form – particularly vegetable oils – and mixed with conventional fuels – particularly biodiesel and bioethanol. The share of biofuels in total fuel consumption increased sharply up to 2007, but has declined since 2008. In 2009 the figure stood at 5.5 %.

The act amending the promotion of biofuels adopted in 2009 and set a target for biofuels, account for 6.25 % of total fuel consumption for 2010-2014. This will ensure that the national development target of 5.75 % in 2010 under Directive 2003/30/EC will be met. From 2015 the energy quota will be replaced by a target for net GHG reduction through biofuels of 3 % by 2015, 4.5 % by 2017 and 7 % by 2020 corresponding to biofuels providing a share of approximately 12 % of fuel consumption by 2020.

Greenhouse gas emissions prevented through the use of renewable energies

The growing use of renewable energies is reducing GHG emissions from the energy sector and is playing an important part in meeting mitigation targets. Germany has the target to cut its GHG emissions by 40 % from 1990 levels by 2020.

In 2009 the use of renewable energies reduced emissions by around 109 million tonnes CO2e. The electricity sector reduced its missions by 72.4 million tonnes of CO2e. Of this, some 57 million tonnes were accounted for by EEG Renewable Energy Sources Act. For heating around 31.3 million tonnes CO2 equivalent were avoided and in the fuel sector around 5.1 million tonnes. Taking CO2 emissions on their own, around 107 million tonnes CO2 were saved in 2009 through the use of renewable energies.

Energy efficiency of electricity production

Another important factor in reducing GHG emissions has been the increase in the conversion efficiency of fossil primary energy used in electricity production. Annual CO2 emissions from electricity production in public and industrial power plants account for around 41 % of total energy-related emissions in Germany.

The average conversion efficiency of fossil-fuel power stations in Germany has increased considerably since 1990, with the average fuel utilisation rate rising from 36.4 % in 1990 to 40.7 % in 2009. This was mainly due to the replacement of old power stations with newer and noticeably more energy efficient ones, in other words they produce more electricity from the same quantity of primary energy. In addition, there has also been the forced construction of gas power stations, which, as highly efficient combined cycle plants, are much more efficient than other fossil-fuel power stations.


Co-generation – CHP or combined heat and power – is defined as the simultaneous production of heat and electricity or mechanical energy. With CHP fuel utilisation rates of more than 90 % can be reached, making it very efficient in the use of primary energy, thereby helping to reduce CO2 emissions. In 2007 co-generation plants produced around 12 % of the Germany’s electricity.

To encourage the expansion of co-generation, the amended CHP Act came into force on January 1st, 2009. Its aim is to help to increase the CHP share of electricity production to 25 % by 2020. Co-generated electricity is subsidised with a graduated bonus for every kilowatt hour of electricity produced; grants are also provided to promote the construction and extension of heating networks. The latest statistics do not yet indicate whether this has had the desired effect of giving the expansion of CHP a fresh impetus, since reliable data are only available up to 2008. Given the lengthy planning process of major power plants the Act will become effective in the future.

According to figures from the Federal Statistical Office the net electricity production in CHP plants supplying the public and industry in 2008 was 79 TWh, a similar level to the previous year. The percentage of net heating produced by CHP for these sectors remained at around 90 %. Between 2004 and 2008 the fuel utilisation for coal in CHP plants decreased by 25 %, from 24 TWh to 18 TWh, while the proportion of gas as a primary energy source rose by about 20 % over the same period, from 43.6 TWh to 52.5 TWh. The sector is experiencing a switch towards lower-carbon gas fuels reducing emissions even further.

Responses at national level - transport

Energy consumption per journey

Transport consumes petrol, diesel, and electricity. Energy consumption fell slightly from 1999 to 2008. The freight and passenger transport performance over the same period increased but with less energy used (energy consumption per journey). This reduction can be put down to technical advances: the average energy consumption – in mega joules per tonne-kilometre (mJ/tonne-km) or passenger-km (mJ/passenger-km) – has fallen in freight transport in recent years by around 18 % compared with 1999, and in passenger transport by 10.5 %. This reduction in energy consumption has, however, been offset by growth in the freight transport sector, resulting in an increase of 10.7 % in the sector’s absolute energy consumption. Passenger transport energy consumption, however, fell by 4.6 % over the reference period.

Specific emissions from transport

The gradual tightening of exhaust requirements for newly registered cars, the fitting of catalytic converters to older vehicles and better fuel quality have also led to a reduction in specific emissions per passenger-km compared with 1991 in all fields. The proportion of less polluting cars has grown considerably, and this is also reflected in a reduction in specific pollutant emissions from road transport in Germany. The considerable reductions in sulphur dioxide (SO2) to 2 % and volatile organic compounds (VOC) to 6 % compared with the much smaller reduction in CO2 to 78 %.

With reference to total emissions from private motorised transport, it is clear that the emission reductions per passenger-km resulting from technological improvements are entirely offset for CO2 and partly offset for other pollutants by the overall increase in transport performance.

See also the Federal Environment Agency’s ‘Concept for a future climate policy – Plotting a new course in 2009’:


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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