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German emissions fall for first time in four years

April 2, 2019

Though renewables played a role in the 4.2 percent drop it has largely been attributed to warm weather. Despite this good news the country is certain to miss its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 40 percent over 1990.

Coal-fired power plant in Neurath, Germany
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Germany's Environment Ministry announced Tuesday that the country emitted 4.2 percent less carbon dioxide in 2018 than it did in 2017. The figure represents a 30.6 percent drop over 1990. It is the first significant reduction after four years of stagnation

Renewables played a major role in 38-million-ton reduction, which environmental authorities say avoided roughly 184 million tons of emissions compared to fossil fuels producing the same amount of energy. In all, Germany emitted 868.7 metric tons of carbon.

Although the news of emission reductions and the role of renewables was welcome, many, including Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, pointed out that exceptionally warm weather was largely responsible for the drop.

Germany's energy future

Climate protection measures having an effect

Yet, speaking of renewables, Schulze said: "In 2018, Germany attained decidedly more energy from wind and solar and simultaneously burned less coal, oil, and gas. Climate protection measures such as the expansion of green energy, phasing out coal, and carbon trading are having an effect."

A drop in the bucket

Karsten Smid of the environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the news, but said, "Germans simply heated less." Others, such as Michael Schäfer of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) spoke of the "disastrous results" of German environmental policy.

Opposition politician and Green Party environmental expert Lisa Badum called the reduction "a drop in the bucket," demanding that the government "take a much more robust approach" to emissions reductions, including steps toward an "immediate phase-out of coal."

Though automobile emissions went down minimally, most of the savings came from residential housing, where citizens heated less.

Climate heroes!

Global emissions on the rise

Germany is currently set to miss its 2020 aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990. Nevertheless, the country also plans to further reduce emissions by 50 percent over 1990 by 2030.   

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced global figures for 2018, documenting an overall global increase of 1.7 percent in carbon emissions. That number represented a historic high of 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Although emissions fell in Germany, France and Britain, they rose by 2.5 percent in China and 3.1 percent in the USA.

Rural green energy

js/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)

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