Industrial drop saves Germany’s compliance with 2022 climate targets
German industry reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in 2022 compared to the previous year, enabling the country to stay in line with its overall emissions target despite additional emissions caused by an increased reliance on coal-fired power generation.
While emissions in industrial production dropped, other sectors saw an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, notably the power and transport sectors, the latter continuously missing the targets defined in the national climate law.
Overall, greenhouse gas emissions declined by 1.9% in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to numbers by the German Environment Agency, just about in line with the country’s climate objectives.
The drop in greenhouse gas emissions in the industry sector was, however, mostly due to a decreased production output as well as the substitution of locally produced energy-intensive components with imports.
“The slight decrease in emissions recorded by Germany in the year of the fossil energy crisis is primarily due to energy-saving effects and production declines in the energy-intensive industry – not to climate protection measures,” Simon Müller, head of the influential think tank Agora Energiewende, said in a statement.
According to Reuters, overall industrial production in Germany was only 0.6% lower in 2022 than in 2021, but due to the increased energy costs, some energy-intensive sectors saw steeper declines.
For the conservative opposition party CDU/CSU (EPP), the reduction of production in energy-intensive industries is no reason to celebrate.
“Particularly in the energy-intensive industries, around 800,000 jobs are at stake,” Julia Klöckner, spokesperson for economic policy of the party’s group in the German parliament, warned in a statement.
“Germany as an industrial location is in danger,” she said.
Transport and buildings sector missing their legal targets
Meanwhile, environmental NGOs strongly criticised the increasing emissions in the transport sector, which repeatedly fails to comply with the sector-specific targets set in the national climate law.
As defined in the law, the transport ministry now needs to develop an emergency programme — something that activists say Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP/Renew Europe) did not sufficiently do even for the previous year.
“In view of the figures presented today, it is clear that [transport minister] Volker Wissing is creating his own reality,” Jörg-Andreas Krüger, president of German environmental organisation NABU, said in a statement.
“He can no longer be expected to develop serious climate protection ambitions during his term in office,” Krüger added.
Environmental NGOs also criticised insufficient emissions reductions in the buildings sector, which, too, is falling short of its legal obligation.
“The breach of law continues: For the third time now, the building sector is failing to meet its statutory targets,” Elisabeth Staudt of NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe told EURACTIV.
“Without binding renovation targets for the building stock and an immediate stop to the installation of oil and gas heating systems, we will not be able to tackle this crisis,” she added.
Increased use of coal for power generation
However, while transport and buildings missed their targets, the biggest increase in emissions was in the energy sector, which covers power generation as well as power-heat co-generation.
This was mostly due to an increase in coal use, as the country reduced power generation from gas plants, as well as nuclear generation due to the national phase-out.
“Despite the overall decline in energy use, especially in industry, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions due to the increased use of hard coal and lignite in the energy industry has been apparent since the summer of 2022,” Dirk Messner, head of the German Environment Agency, said in a statement.
“The federal government will now have to counteract this with an effective program – but the task must be tackled by society as a whole,” he added.
So far, the expansion of power generation from renewables lags far behind what is needed to reach the government’s target.
“We have to manage to install three times as much capacity as we have at present in order to increase the share of renewables in electricity generation to 80% by 2030,” Messner said.