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Germany cuts carbon emissions by 6.3% in 2019

Jenipher Camino Gonzalez
March 16, 2020

EU carbon pricing policies and the decommissioning of coal-powered plants are helping reduce emissions in Germany, a new government report says. But the trend did not apply to heating in homes and car use.

Sun rises above a power plant
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Stratenschulte

Germany's greenhouse gas emissions continued to decline last year, according to a report published Monday by the Environment Ministry.

The country emitted some 805 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2019, which was roughly 54 million tons or 6.3% less than in 2018, the report said.

With the exception of the 2009 global economic crisis, Germany's emissions reduction in 2019 was the country's largest annual decline since 1990. Compared to then, Germany has already reduced its emissions 35.7%.

The German government has pledged an emissions reduction of at least 55% by 2030.

The report attributed this development to the successful reform of European emissions trading, the low price of gas, the expansion of wind and solar energy, and the shutdown of the first coal-fired power plant units.

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Carbon pricing effective

Most of the reductions were registered in Germany's energy sector, which saw a reduction of 51 million tonnes of CO2. That represents a 16.5% drop in emissions on the previous year. A key factor is the use of gas-fired instead of coal-fired power plants.

The report noted that the average price for one ton of CO2 in 2019 was almost twice as high as in 2018, making the operation of coal-fired power plants in 2019 often more expensive than that of gas-fired power plants.

Germany's policy of decomissioning coal-fired power plants in 2019, with a total capacity of 3.5 gigawatts, and other measures had a positive effect, the report said.

The country's agricultural sector also saw a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 2.3%. This was due to declining livestock numbers of cattle and pigs, as well as a 10.3% decline in mineral fertilizer sales.

But the report cautioned that the reduction in agriculture could be in large part due to the consequences of very dry weather conditions last year.

Germany also saw a hike in electricity production from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power. The report noted that this was due to sunnier and windier conditions, but also increased investment in those industries.

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Inventor and visionary Dirk Lehmann

Emissions from housing and cars rise

The report also noted a surge in emissions in housing and transportation. A key driver of the emissions in the housing sector was heating. According to the report, the price of heating oil was significantly lower in 2019 than in 2018.

Germans are also still driving and as a result, gas consumption was also on the rise. The total number of motor vehicles in circulation grew by 1.6%.

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said the report was a positive sign for the future and urged for more expansion renewable energy sources, saying that ''electricity from wind and solar power is the basis for successful climate protection.''

''Additional measures are needed in transportation policy and in housing, in order to create a trend of falling emissions in these areas too,'' Schulze said.

The Federal Environment Agency President Dirk Messner praised the ministry's report, on which his organization collaborated. "Germany is moving in the right direction towards the climate target for 2030, which is encouraging," Messner said. 

''In principle, I see that Germany can achieve its climate targets. And Germany can achieve even more if we set the right course and exploit the opportunities in all sectors,'' Messner added, echoing Schulze's push for more renewable energy investments.

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