Joint press release by the German Environment Agency, the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

2019 greenhouse gas emissions in Germany declined by 6.3 percent

Energy sector slashes emissions, growth in building and transport sectors

in einer futuristisch anmutenden Szenerie mit blauem Licht stehen Solarpanels auf einer Wasserfläche, im Hintergrund Windkraftanlagen und StrommastenClick to enlarge
Germany must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 95% – with all sectors contributing.
Source: Kalafoto / Fotolia.com

Germany generated some 805 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 – 54 million tonnes (6.3%) less than in 2018. These are the results of a preliminary inventory of greenhouse gas emissions taken by the German Environment Agency (UBA), which continues the positive course of development of the previous year. With the exception of the global crisis year 2009, emissions reductions in 2019 mark the largest annual decline since 1990. The energy sector made the greatest progress in emissions mitigation. This is due to the successful reform of European emissions trading, low gas prices, expansion of wind and solar energy, and the shutdown of the first coal power generation units. Compared to the 1990 baseline, Germany's emissions have sunk by 35.7 percent. In accordance with the Climate Change Act, Germany aims to cut its emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said: "Germany made a great step forward in combating climate change in 2019. With the exception of the crisis year 2009, the past year witnessed the greatest decline in emissions of any year since 1990. This is encouraging as we look to the great challenges ahead. The 2019 climate footprint shows that our measures are effective since much less coal was consumed. In areas where policymakers have already taken action, we are by and large on the right course in terms of climate action. European emissions trading reform and the expansion of wind and solar energy in the energy sector have had positive effects. These developments must continue because wind and solar energy are the basis for successful climate action. Transport policy and the building sector must take more action in order to also join the trend of declining emissions."

UBA President Dirk Messner said: "Germany is on the right track to achieving the 2030 climate target. While this is a good sign, we also know that we mustn't rest on our laurels of the past 20 years, in particular with regard to renewable energy. We must renew wind turbine installation in greater numbers - there is simply no way around replacing coal-generated electricity, which will be leaving the power grid. Other sectors' progress is also stagnant, for example building and transport. In general, however, I believe Germany can achieve its climate targets and more if we choose the right course and tap the potential in every sector."

Greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 are distributed across the following sectors:

Energy: The sector generated by far the greatest mitigation contribution, with nearly 51 million tonnes CO2, which is 16.7 percent less than in 2018. One major factor accounting for this is the operation of fewer emissions-intensive gas-fired and coal power plants. In addition to low global market prices for gas, the successful reform of the European emissions trading scheme was reflected in subsequent higher CO2 prices. The average price in 2019 of €24.65 per tonne of CO2 was nearly twice the price in 2018. As a result, it was frequently more costly to operate coal-powered plants than gas-fired power plants. In 2019, hard-coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 3.5 gigawatts were shut down or put on the grid reserve. The lignite power plant units put on security standby in October 2018 and in October 2019 also contributed to mitigation. The greater role played by renewable energy in electricity production was a further factor in mitigation, although not due to the construction of new installations but rather to particularly windy and sunny weather.

Industry: Emissions decreased as compared with the previous year by over 7 million tonnes CO2 equivalents (-3.7%). Most of this mitigation can be traced to lower levels of fuel consumption in industrial furnaces and lower electricity production in industrial power plants. Process emissions were reduced in the steel industry in particular. Both the mineral and chemical industries recorded slight declines in emissions.

Buildings: Emissions rose by 5 million tonnes over the previous year (+4.4%). The main driver of the increase compared to the previous year was the larger volume of heating oil sales, for which price was the decisive factor. The 2019 price for heating oil was well below 2018 levels. Weather conditions were also a factor: after the unusually warm weather in 2018, cooler weather returned to many parts of Germany in 2019.

Transport: Greenhouse gas emissions rose slightly above the previous year's level to 163.5 million tonnes CO2 (+1.2 million tonnes (+0.7%)). Although more economical vehicles entered the market, the size of the motor vehicle fleet expanded (+1.6%) and cumulative consumption of petrol and diesel was higher.

Agriculture: Emissions shrank by 2.3% to 68.2 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. This can be traced to declining numbers of livestock (cattle -2.6%, pigs -2%) and a 10.3% dip in mineral fertiliser sales turnover. Based on initial analyses, the observable effects can be attributed firstly to the consequences of the very dry weather (in particular animal feed availability), and secondly to low market prices and the tightening of the Fertiliser Ordinance of 2017.

Waste: Emissions decreased by half a million tonnes (-4.7%) compared to the previous year. The trend is dominated by landfilling emissions, which declined again by 5.9%. Other categories recorded almost no changes.

On the whole, emissions for all greenhouse gases decreased. The major player - carbon dioxide - recorded a decline of nearly 50 million tonnes (-6,6%). Total methane emissions decreased by 2.5 million tonnes (-4.7%). Nitrous oxide emissions decreased by 1.3 million tonnes (-3.5%). Total F gases sank by nearly 0.3 million tonnes.

Accuracy of the data

The results represent the currently best possible estimate. As such, there are corresponding uncertainties, in particular due to the very limited statistical calculation bases available at the present time. The calculations are derived from a system of model calculations and trend updates of the detailed inventories of greenhouse gas emissions for 2018 published in January 2020. This calculation approach means that accuracy is necessarily lower than that of the detailed calculations for previous years.

For comparison: The detailed inventory for 2018 published in January 2020 showed a further reduction in the total emissions by 0.8 percentage points compared to the previous year's estimate published on 2 April 2019.

UBA will publish a complete, official and detailed inventory of data on the 2019 greenhouse gas emissions in Germany on 15 January 2021 and submission to the European Commission.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau
Germany