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

UBA emissions data for 2015 indicate urgent need for consistent implementation of Climate Action Programme 2020

Hendricks: All sectors must deliver on climate protection

many cars on a motorwayClick to enlarge
One reason for the higher emissions in 2015: CO2 emissions in the transport sector rose by 1.5%.
Source: digitalstock /

High volumes of electricity exports, cooler weather than the previous year and lower fuel prices resulted in a slight increase of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, says a short-term forecast by the German Environment Agency. According to the forecast, emissions grew by six million tonnes to 908 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, which is 0.7 percent. In sum, emissions have declined by 27.2 percent since 1990.

CO2 emissions decreased in electricity production. Even though Germany’s largest nuclear Grafenrheinfeld power plant went offline in 2015 the production of electricity with coal did not increase. The proportion of renewable energy in electricity production grew significantly to 30 percent. However, the growth in electricity exports for the year – a record high of 50 terawatt hours – prevented a corresponding reduction of CO2 emissions.

Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said: “The bad news is that the progress made in climate action by the development of renewable energy is unfortunately being undone by the consistently high production of coal-based electricity, which is due to the excess capacities at coal-fired power plants. But the good news is we are getting closer to finding a solution. It is in fact possible to phase out coal-fired power generation without causing bottlenecks in the power supply. The numbers are clear on this. We will be taking the first lignite-fired power stations offline starting 2017 and putting them on stand-by as a first step. This will set the right course for climate policy.“

The effectiveness of the Climate Action Programme which was adopted in December 2014 is not yet reflected in the current data because many measures only started in the course of 2015.

The major reason for the rise in emissions was the cooler weather compared to the previous year. Demand for heat energy was higher, and households and other small-scale consumers used more natural gas in particular. Result: emissions increased by 4.5 million tonnes.

Minister Hendricks said: “The data indicate that weather conditions still have a great impact on our climate footprint. This shows that there is still enormous potential in the heat sector, and there is a need for action with regard to the energy efficiency of buildings in particular. I have therefore pushed through with an increase of and more effective funding for energy upgrades for buildings under the Climate Action Programme.”

Transport sector activity also gave rise to higher emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions in the sector grew by 1.5 percent to 163.6 million tonnes of CO2. Reasons include the drop in fuel prices and the significant increase in freight traffic volume, primarily on roads.

UBA’s President Maria Krautzberger said: “The current data reconfirm that we can only achieve our climate targets with different forms of mobility. We need better offers from the bus and train networks, more electric mobility in cars and bicycles, and support for pedestrian and bicycle mobility. The transport sector must be designed to become climate-neutral.” There is a need for research and development too, for example in the technology for electrical power conversion to a gas fuel (power to gas / power to liquid).

Industry emissions for the year 2015 rose by 0.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Waste sector emissions declined by nearly 0.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents compared to the previous year, thanks to improvements in landfilling.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector rose by 1.3 percent to 66.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. This is traceable to nitrous oxide emissions which resulted from increased use of fertiliser and methane emissions due to the higher numbers of livestock in cattle and sheep farming. These gases all differ in their impact on the climate and are recalculated in CO2 equivalents for better comparability.

The current data represent initial estimates which are derived from a system of modelling techniques and extrapolated trends based on in-depth calculations published in January 2015. Those calculations applied early data on primary energy consumption for 2015 supplied by the Working Group on Energy Balances and industry associations.

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