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Germany Off Track on Climate Goals Despite Emissions Plunging To 1950s Levels

Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped in 2023 to their lowest levels since the 1950s, but Europe’s biggest economy is off track on its climate goals as most of the emission reductions were short-term effects from an industrial slowdown, think tank Agora Energiewende said on Thursday.

German emissions fell to 673 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) last year—down by 46% compared to the reference year 1990, and settling at their lowest level since the 1950s. Emissions were about 49 million tons of CO? below the annual target of 722 million tons of CO? in the Climate Protection Act of Germany, according to the think tank.

However, Agora Energiewende’s analysis showed that the two main reasons for the lower emissions were lower coal-fired power generation – at its lowest since the 1960s – and a sharp decline in industrial production and therefore, emissions, amid an economic slump and skyrocketing energy prices.  

According to Agora’s calculations, only about 15% of the CO2 volumes saved last year constitutes permanent emissions reductions resulting from additional renewable energy capacity, efficiency gains, and the switch to fuels that produce less CO2 or other climate friendly alternatives.

“About half of the emissions cuts are due to short-term effects, such as lower electricity prices, according to the analysis,” the think tank said, noting that “most of the emissions cuts in 2023 are not sustainable from an industrial or climate policy perspective - for example, if emissions rise again as the economy picks up or if a share of Germany’s industrial production is permanently moved abroad.”

“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,” said Simon Müller, director of Agora Energiewende Germany.

“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.”  

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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