UBA's 2014 emissions data indicates trend reversal in climate protection

Emissions at lowest point since 2010

Coal-fired power station Jänschwalde in GermanyClick to enlarge
Coal-fired power stations like the one in Jänschwalde emit more greenhouse gases than other stations
Source: blumenkind / Fotolia.com

Greenhouse gas emission levels in Germany in 2014 were lower than in the previous year for the first time in three years, says a short-term forecast by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). The report states that emissions decreased by more than 41 million tonnes CO2 equivalents, or 4.3 per cent. Total greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 were thus 912 million tonnes – the lowest level since 2010, representing a 27% decline compared to the international reference year 1990.

Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said: "The trend is finally developing in the right direction again. Much of the reduction in 2014 is due to the mild winter conditions but part of it is also thanks to real progress made in the area of climate protection. We want to reinforce this trend with ambitious measures under the Climate Action Programme. The data points out a need for action in the area of emissions from coal-fired power generation. It is better to introduce gentle, socially acceptable structural change now than to risk abrupt measures at a later time."

Says UBA's President Maria Krautzberger: "The decline of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany is good news, but we must not relent in our efforts to become less reliant on carbon-based fuels. The mild winter and, as a result, lower demand for heating, should not hide the fact that we have not made substantial progress in the area of energy upgrades for buildings. The steady rise in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and traffic in particular are clear signs of existing deficits. And despite massive growth in the renewable energy sector the constant high level of emissions, and from lignite-based power generation in particular, shows that we still have a need for more action in this regard."

The main reason for lower emissions levels is traceable to less use of fossil fuels. This in turn is due mainly to mild weather conditions and the decreased need for heating in buildings and homes. 

There has been a particularly sharp decline in the use of natural gas and hard coal: the consumption of natural gas produced 12.9% less carbon dioxide emissions; hard coal emissions were 8.2% less. In contrast, the highest-emission fuel lignite generated less CO2 emissions at a disproportionately weak rate of 2.2%. The proportion of renewable energy in gross electricity consumption rose by 2.4 percentage points in 2014 to 27.8%. Renewable energy has played a major role in displacing the lower-emissions fuels natural gas and hard coal, although lignite-fired power plants remain responsible for persistently high levels of emissions.

In a cross-sectoral comparison, energy (general power and heating supply) accounted for a nearly 6% decline in greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from transport, however, grew by more than 3%. This is due to greater transport performance in both the commercial and private sector, accompanied by steady economic growth and a sharp decline in fuel prices.

In the waste sector emissions of the greenhouse gas methane decreased by 0.6 million tonnes CO2 equivalents, due mainly to a ban on landfilling of organic waste. In agriculture, emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) rose slightly as a result of the increased use of mineral fertilisers. The share of fluorinated gases, or F-gases, in industry remained more or less unchanged. These greenhouse gases have varying degrees of climate impact and are therefore calculated in terms of CO2 equivalents for better comparability.

The data used for the 2014 short-term forecast is derived from a system of model extrapolations and trend updates based on the detailed calculations for 2013 which were published by UBA in January. The publication is also based on initial survey data published for 2014 by official statistics authorities, the Working Group on Energy Balances, and industry associations. As of 2014 the new rules for inventory calculation apply for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (including IPCC Guidelines 2006). This will limit the ability of making any direct comparisons with earlier data published by UBA.

Diagrams and tables on emission trends can be viewed in the pdf file of this press release at: http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/dokument/presse-information-142105 (in German).

Figures vary in some respect due to different allocations of sector.


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