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Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions fall to lowest level since the 1950s

According to preliminary calculations of the 2023 energy year by the think tank Agora Energiewende, Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions fell to 673m tonnes of CO2 in the last 12 months, compared to 746m tonnes in the previous year.

This figure also represents a decrease of 46% compared to the reference year of 1990 and is the lowest level of emissions since the 1950s.time-lapse photography of vehicle at the road in between the building at nighttime aerial photography

The think tank identified two main drivers of this drop in emissions. Firstly, coal-fired power generation fell to its lowest level since the 1960s, saving 44m tonnes of CO2 alone. This was down to  a significant drop in electricity demand, increased electricity imports from neighbouring countries – around half of which came from renewable sources of energy – as well as a decrease in electricity exports and a slight increase in domestic green electricity generation.

Secondly, emissions from industry fell significantly. This was largely due to the decline in production by energy-intensive companies as a result of the economic situation and international crises. High prices lead to a 9% drop in the consumption of energy sourced primarily from fossil fuels, while the consumption of renewable energy sources remained roughly constant.

The share of renewable energy crossed the 50% mark for the first time, increasing 5% compared to 2022. Solar lead the way in this success story as the expansion of wind power remained well below the legally defined rate. That said, the number of permits for new onshore wind turbines doubled to over 7 GW.

On the other hand, the transport and buildings sectors, both missed their respective annual climate targets for the fourth and third time in a row respectively.

Transport has suffered from an increase in road traffic and the report calls for ‘additional measures’ to promote the roll out of electric vehicles, the take-up of which has stagnated.

In the building sector, a cut in subsidies for heat pumps lead to a 40% jump in the sale of new gas and oil heating systems. Although 2023 set  a record for heat pumps, 48,800 heat pump support applications were registered between January and June, compared to nearly 97,800 in the first half of 2022.

Simon Müller, director of Agora Energiewende Germany said: ‘2023 was a two-speed year as far as climate protection in Germany is concerned: the energy sector notched up a climate policy success with its record level of new renewable power, taking us closer to the 2030 target.

‘However, we don’t consider the emissions reductions seen in the industrial sector to be sustainable. The drop in production due to the energy crisis weakens Germany’s industrial base. If emissions are simply shifted abroad as a result, this won’t benefit the climate. The buildings and transport sectors are also lagging as far as structural climate protection measures are concerned.’

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