Joint press release by the German Environment Agency and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action

Greenhouse gas emissions rose by 4.5 percent in 2021

Federal Ministry for Climate Action announces comprehensive immediate action programme

dampfende Kühltürme eines Kraftwerks und HochspannungsleitungClick to enlarge
The energy industry accounts for the majority of energy-related emissions
Source: Tom Bayer /

After a significant decline in the previous year, greenhouse gas emissions in Germany are on the rise again. Some 762 million tonnes of greenhouse gases were released in 2021 – just over 33 million tonnes, or 4.5 percent more than in 2020. Overall, emissions in Germany have fallen by 38.7 percent since 1990. The increase in 2021 is particularly noticeable in the energy sector – a rise of 27 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents. This is because more coal was used to generate electricity in response to an increased demand for electricity, lower electricity generation from renewable energies and the higher price of gas. Electricity production from renewables fell by seven per cent, mainly due to poor wind conditions. The transport and buildings sectors are above the annual emission levels specified in the Federal Climate Change Act. These findings are based on new calculations reported by the German Environment Agency (UBA), which were announced in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Climate Change Act and the EU Renewable Energies Directive (RED).

Climate State Secretary Patrick Graichen said: “Unfortunately, we could see the uptick in greenhouse gas emissions coming. The federal government will now take quick counteraction with its Immediate Climate Action Programme. Stepping up the pace of renewable energy expansion is key here. We have to install three times more capacity to increase the share of renewables in electricity production to 80% by 2030. We must move beyond the deadlock experienced in recent years. Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine has also made it dramatically clear how closely security and energy supply are linked. We can no longer afford to ignore this fact and is why we must swiftly clear the hurdles that stand in the way of more wind and solar energy. All sectors must embrace a quicker renunciation of fossil fuels – from industrial production and the building sector to mobility and agriculture. What matters in the process is maintaining the social balance."

UBA’s President Dirk Messner said: “Nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions reduction achieved in 2020 has been offset again. Our numbers show that we must move ahead quickly to achieve the targets set by the federal government. We must build more solar and wind power plants. Our buildings must be fitted with heat pumps, and we must halt the installation of oil and gas heating systems as soon as possible. Our building stock can also add to energy savings, mainly by improving energy upgrades. This will also makes us less dependent on Russia for our energy needs. Every single individual can take action for the benefit of the climate: turn down the heat, leave your car parked more often but when and if necessary, drive it at slower speed.”

Emissions data updates

Emissions in Germany have declined by 38.7% since 1990. The target for 2030 is to reduce emissions by 65%. Emissions increased in 2021 compared to the previous year in almost all sectors. The available data show that since 2010, the energy transition in particular has contributed to the reduction of emissions. All other significant sectors have more or less stagnated since 2010.

Energy: The sector’s nearly 27 million tonnes CO2 equivalents represents the greatest emissions increase in absolute numbers – 12.4% more than 2020. But emissions of around 247 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents were still some 11 million tonnes less than in 2019. The Federal Climate Change Act prescribes no annual emission budget in 2021 for the energy sector. Emissions from hard coal and lignite-fired power generation increased markedly due to the increased use of coal. The use of lower-emission natural gas, on the other hand, decreased in the second half of the year due to the sharp rise in gas prices. The main reasons for the increased use of fossil energy sources for electricity generation is the much lower level of electricity generation from renewables (– 17.5 TWh) compared to the previous year, and in particular the lower wind power generation, and an increase in gross electricity consumption by 13.5 TWh.

Transport: The sector had emissions of about 148 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents in 2021. This means that greenhouse gas emissions from this sector are both 1.2% above the 2020 value and around 3 million tonnes above the annual emission budget of 145 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents permitted by the Federal Climate Change Act for 2021. One reason for this is road transport, which has risen again on the motorways to a level slightly above that of 2019. Passenger vehicle traffic, in contrast, continues to be lower than in the pre-pandemic period (2019), which is reflected in fuel sales figures and data from traffic count sites on motorways and federal roads.

Industry: Emissions rose by a solid 9 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents compared to the previous year (+5.5%). The sector’s some 181 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents puts it at almost the same level as in 2019, but just below the annual emission budget of 182 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents stipulated in the Federal Climate Change Act. Catch-up economic effects in the wake of the pandemic and increased use of fossil fuels play an important role here. The most significant percentage increase was in the steel industry, where crude steel production rose by roughly 12%. In the manufacturing industry (energy-related share), emissions rose by around seven million tonnes CO₂ equivalents (+6.4%).

Next steps pursuant to of the Federal Climate Change Act

The Act provides for an assessment of 2021 emissions data by the Council of Experts on Climate Change within one month’s time. The Act then requires the respective responsible ministries to submit within three months’ time an immediate action programme containing proposals for measures that will bring the building sector and transport sector onto the intended target path in the following years. However, the federal government is already working on an immediate climate action programme that is intended to meet these requirements to the fullest extent possible.

Dirk Messner said: “Achieving the federal government’s targets by 2030 means we must cut emissions by six percent per year, but the average annual reduction since 2010 has not even reached two percent. To achieve that goal, Germany needs to take concerted action on energy. We must all make every effort to become independent of energy from Russia and protect the climate.”

Renewable energy updates

In 2020, Germany's binding target of an 18% share of gross final energy consumption under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED) was already exceeded (19.3%). In 2021, gross final energy consumption from renewable energies in the electricity, heating and transport sectors continued to rise slightly to 483 billion kWh according to the calculation specifications of the RED. This corresponded to a share of 19.7% of total gross final energy consumption.

A major factor at play was that more renewable energies were used for heating and cooling due to the cold winter. That is why - and because heating oil sales, which are decisive for the calculation of the share, also declined due to high inventories and rising oil prices - the share of renewable heat increased significantly from 15.3% to 16.5% in 2021. The heating and cooling sector accounts for more than half of Germany's total gross final energy consumption.

Electricity generation from renewable energies declined by seven percent in 2021 due to a comparatively poor wind year. At the same time, the expansion of onshore wind energy plants stagnated in recent years. The renewable share of gross electricity consumption fell accordingly from 45.2% in 2020 to 41.1%. Electricity consumption represents about a quarter of Germany's total gross final energy consumption. In European monitoring according to RED, however, the real decline in renewable electricity generation is mitigated by a normalisation rule to offset weather effects over a period of several years.

The share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption in the transport sector fell from 7.6% in the previous year to 6.8% in 2021. This decline can be explained by special carry-over arrangements from earlier years under the greenhouse gas reduction quota and a higher crediting of upstream emission reductions. Transport is responsible for well over a quarter of total energy consumption.

These and other data were published today in the background paper on renewable energy in Germany [Erneuerbare Energien in Deutschland – Daten zur Entwicklung im Jahr 2021] by the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat). Initial data available on the use of renewable energies in the electricity, heat and transport sectors are supplemented by calculations of the associated avoided emissions and economic effects.

Further information:

Accuracy of the data
The present emissions data represent the best possible estimate. As such, there are corresponding uncertainties, in particular due to the 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 2020 published in January 2022.

UBA will publish a complete, official and detailed inventory of data on 2021 greenhouse gas emissions in Germany in January 2023 when it submits the data to the European Commission.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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