UBA forecast: 2022 greenhouse gas emissions down by 1.9 percent

Increase in coal and fuel consumption – more renewables and overall lower energy use curb the effects

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

Germany's greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) fell slightly by 1.9% in 2022. GHG emissions were around 746 million tonnes – some 15 million tonnes less than 2021. Overall, emissions in Germany have fallen by 40.4% since 1990. While this means that Germany is generally on track to meet the targets of the Federal Climate Change Act, emissions in the energy sector increased significantly to a level 10.7 million tonnes higher than in 2021 (around 256 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents). This is because, despite savings in natural gas, the increased use of hard coal and lignite for electricity generation caused emissions to rise. Good news: electricity production using renewables was able to curb emissions, up by nine percent over 2021. The energy sector can therefore just about meet its annual emissions target for 2022 of 257 million tonnes. The transport and buildings sectors, on the other hand, once again exceed the annual emission budgets stipulated in the Federal Climate Change Act. These findings are based on new calculations reported by the German Environment Agency (UBA), which were announced today.

UBA’s President Dirk Messner said: “To achieve the Federal Government's targets by 2030, emissions must now be reduced by six percent per year. Average reductions since 2010 have been less than two percent. Despite the overall decline in energy use, especially in industry, the rise in greenhouse gas emissions due to the increased use of hard coal and lignite in the energy industry has been evident since summer 2022. The Federal Government will now have to respond with an effective programme – but it is a task for society as a whole. The key is to increase the pace of renewable energy expansion. We must install three times as much capacity as before in order to increase the share of renewables in electricity generation to 80% by 2030. We cannot allow ourselves to get bogged down as we have done in the last few years. We simply cannot afford this fatal dependence on fossil fuels. Any obstacle on the way to more wind and solar power must be overcome quickly. Decarbonisation must span all sectors - from industrial production and buildings to mobility and agriculture. We also have to maintain the social balance; eliminating climate-damaging subsidies can free up important funds that we can use wisely for this purpose.”

The energy sector recorded yet another increase in GHG emissions – 10.7 million tonnes (+4.4%). The use of hard coal and lignite for the generation of electricity and heat increased for the second consecutive year along with emissions. The use of mineral oils in the energy industry, especially light fuel oil, also increased. The main reason for these increases is to offset the lower consumption of natural gas, which was 10.8% below the previous year. Increased electricity production was also necessary as a contribution to supply security in other European countries at a time when about half of France's nuclear power plants were down in the summer.

Transport sector emissions in 2022 were around 148 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector are thus around 1.1 million tonnes (0.7%) above the 2021 figure, and around nine million tonnes above the annual emission quantity of 138.8 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents allowable in the Federal Climate Change Act for 2022. Transport is the only sector to miss its target and show a year-on-year increase in emissions at the same time. Despite especially high fuel prices in 2022 and the temporary rollout of the 9-euro ticket in public transport, emissions from road transport rose again. After COVID-19 restrictions were widely lifted, passenger car traffic increased slightly. High fuel prices were alleviated by the fuel price rebate. Although 2022 was a record year for the number of new registrations of electric cars, the increase is not sufficient to balance out the spike in emissions.

Having slightly exceeded the maximum level set by the Federal Climate Change Act in 2021, industry emissions fell significantly by 19 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents (10.4%) to 164 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents in 2022. This is due to the sharp drop in energy consumption triggered by the war in Ukraine, especially in the metal processing and chemical industries. The main reason for the lower energy use and thus lower emissions in industry are energy costs, which have risen sharply compared to the previous year due to inflation and the crisis. With the exception of hard coal – consumption remains at almost the same level as 2021 – the use of other fossil fuels has fallen. As a result, production figures have also declined in some areas, especially in the energy-intensive industries.

The buildings sector reduced emissions in 2022 by nearly six million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents (-5.3%), to about 112 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents. Despite the cut in emissions, the sector exceeded, as in the previous year, the maximum emissions level allowable pursuant to the Federal Climate Change Act (107.4 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents). Emissions reductions in this sector are also largely due to the rise in energy prices, which led to reduced energy use. The mild weather also favoured these savings. Only sales of light heating oil increased (+ 9%) in order to replenish stocks after slow sales in 2021, also in anticipation of a possible energy crisis.

Emissions in the agriculture sector shrank by roughly 0.9 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents (-1.5%) to 66.2 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents. The sector thus remains below the annual emission budget of 67.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents set for 2022 in the Federal Climate Change Act. This reduction is due in particular to the continued decline in pig numbers and decreased use of mineral fertilisers.

Emissions in the waste management sector dropped by about 4.5% from the previous year's level to about 4.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. This means that the waste management sector once again remains below the annual emission budget of 8.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents stipulated in the Federal Climate Change Act. The trend is set mainly by decreasing emissions from landfilling, which has been banned.

The law prescribes that the emissions data for 2022 be reviewed by the Council of Experts on Climate Change. The Council of Experts presents an assessment of the data within a month. After that, the law provides that the responsible ministries must submit an immediate action programme within three months’ time with proposed measures to bring the building sector and the transport sector back on the intended target path in the next few years. The federal government is already working on an immediate climate action programme that aims to achieve these climate goals.

Renewable energy updates

More renewable energy was used in 2022 than in previous years. In both electricity generation and heating, renewables made a substantial contribution to replacing the use of fossil fuels, especially natural gas. In a year with a crisis- and weather-related decline in fossil fuel consumption, total final energy consumption from renewables in the electricity, heating and transport sectors increased strongly. According to the calculation methods of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), renewable energies covered 20.4%, more than a fifth of the total gross final energy consumption, for the first time. That figure still stood at 19.2% in 2021.

The key factor for the increase was primarily the strong growth of renewable energies in the electricity sector: overall, the amount of renewable electricity grew by almost 9% and now already covers 46.2% of Germany's gross electricity consumption (compared to 41.2% in 2021). Electricity generation from photovoltaic systems in particular increased significantly (+23%). Both the strong growth in the plant stock and sunny weather with an all-time high in global radiation had a notable impact.

Onshore and offshore wind farms also generated significantly more electricity in 2022 (+9%) than in 2021, when the wind was very weak. The wind power generation of the windier years 2019 and 2020 could not be matched. It is notable that the expansion of generation capacities is only slowly picking up again – 2.1 GW net addition in 2022 compared to 1.6 GW in 2021.

Renewable energies also made a greater contribution to heat production in 2022. The absolute amount of bioenergy sources, solar thermal energy and ambient heat harnessed by means of heat pumps increased slightly compared to the previous year (+1%). The mild weather also meant that the demand for heat was significantly lower than in previous years. The share of renewable heat in overall heating demand increased significantly from 15.8% to 17.4%. The heating and cooling sector accounts for about half of Germany's total energy consumption, which is why increasing energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources is crucial for the energy transition and for climate action.

The share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption in the transport sector remained unchanged from the previous year (6.8%). Although more green electricity was used in the transport sector as a result of increased e-mobility (+16%), sales of biofuels were stagnant. This is in addition to the rise in fuel consumption after the pandemic.

Further information

The present emissions data 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 2021 which were published in January 2023.

UBA will publish Germany’s complete, official and detailed inventory of emissions data for 2022 in January 2024 and submit the information to the European Commission.

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