Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2023 were at their lowest since the 1950s, largely due to reduced coal use.
- Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2023 dropped to their lowest point in 70 years, a study showed.
- The change is largely attributed to Europe’s largest economy reducing its dependence on coal, at a faster rate than expected.
- But the decline is unsustainable without climate policy changes.
- For climate change news and analysis, go to News24 Climate Future.
Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2023 were at their lowest point in around 70 years, as Europe’s largest economy managed to reduce its dependence on coal faster than expected, a study published Thursday showed.
Germany emitted 673 million tonnes of the greenhouse gases last year, 73 million tonnes fewer than in 2022, according to the Berlin-based think tank, Agora Energiewende.
The figure was at its lowest point “since the 1950s”, Agora said in a statement, while warning that Germany had work to do to further reduce its emissions.
The drop was “largely attributable to a strong decrease in coal power generation”, Agora said.
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Germany had resorted to the fuel in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when Moscow cut off gas supplies to the European giant. But since then, Germany has pared down its use of the fossil fuel significantly.
Germany aims to phase out coal by 2038, but economy minister Robert Habeck has advocated an earlier exit by 2030, a date already agreed in western German states but resisted by the eastern brown coal belt.
Coal’s share of energy generation dropped to 26% from 34%, according to the federal network agency.
The cut in coal use accounted for a reduction of 46 million tonnes in CO2 emissions, the think tank estimated.
Electricity generation from renewable sources was over 50% of the total in 2023 for the first time. The renewables record brought Germany closer to its target to produce 80% of its electricity from wind and solar by 2030, Agora chief Simon Mueller said.
With heating the main contributor, buildings emitted 109 million tonnes of CO2 last year, a 2.7% fall on the year, but above Germany’s target of 101 million tonnes.
A bill introduced last year to encourage green energy and communal heating must be quickly implemented to put the sector back on track for 2030, Mueller said.
Industry emissions met government targets, falling 12% year-on-year, at 144 million tonnes, following an 11% drop in energy-intensive output, it added, warning that that fall could be lost this year with the sector’s recovery.
The reduction in emissions from industry did not reflect a “sustainable development”, Mueller said. “The crisis-related slump in production weakens the German economy. If emissions are subsequently relocated abroad, then nothing has been achieved for the climate,” he said.
Energy-intensive manufacturers scaled down production last year due to rising gas prices in Europe following a shift from Russian piped gas supply to liquefied natural gas imports in the aftermath of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the overall drop, the transport and buildings sectors that have fallen short of government emissions targets in recent years, and missed their 2023 goal. In the transport sector, CO2 emissions fell by 2% from 2022 to 145 million tonnes, the goal was 133 million tonnes.
The electric cars’ market share also stagnated at 20%, the study showed and it suggested tax subsidies reforms and an expansion of public transport to reach the target.
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In all, the think tank estimated that only 15% of the reduction in 2023 constituted a “permanent emissions savings”.
To hit its climate targets, Germany needs a “barrage of investments” to modernise industry and reduce the carbon footprint from heating, Mueller said.
This view is echoed in the study, which indicated that meeting 2030 CO2 targets needed government financing, which has become significantly tighter after last year’s constitutional court ruling that cancelled some 60 billion euros of unused debt earmarked for climate projects.
“A clever mix of instruments can ensure that we achieve more climate protection for every euro from the state treasury,” Mueller added.
– Additional reporting by Reuters