Climate change mitigation - Drivers and pressures (Germany)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated)
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SOER Common environmental theme from Germany
Climate change Climate change
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German Federal Environment Agency
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German Federal Environment Agency
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Last updated
23 Nov 2010
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German Federal Environment Agency
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 11 May 2020 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 %.


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