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Published on November 16th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales


What’s The Truth About Germany’s GHG Emissions?

November 16th, 2014 by  

 World GHG Emissions are 61% over 1990 levels; Germany’s are 23% below.

Maybe you remember the headlines about 2013. “Merkel’s Green shift backfires as German pollution jumps;” “Germany now EU’s worst polluter as CO2 emissions rise.” It was the third year in a row CO2 levels rose. The critics howled that Energiewende was failing, but is that true? What’s the real story about Germany’s GHG emissions?


As you can see in the chart above, in 2013, Germany’s emissions rose to 952 million tonnes. That is actually 23% lower than its figure for 1990, which is the baseline year adopted by nations who signed the Kyoto Accord.

The world’s emissions are now 61% higher than 1990 levels.

In what many are calling a historic deal, the Chinese have agreed to slow the growth of its emissions so that they do not go higher after 2030.

In return, the world’s worst emitter, measured per capita, has agreed to cut its emissions back at least 26% by 2030. The average American produces 16 tonnes of CO2 a year. As you can see below, this situation is improving. According to the Environmental Protection Agency: “Since 1990, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have increased by about 5%.”

Screenshot 2014-11-14 08.13.08

The situation is getting worse north of the border, where Environment Canada reports that greenhouse gas emissions were 18% above their 1990 levels. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been unwilling to deal with the tar sands. As a result, Canada’s emissions are expected to rise 38% by 2030.

Screenshot 2014-11-14 16.14.47

After hearing of the US-China Accord, Chris Severson-Baker, managing director of the Pembina Institute issued a press release stating:

Canada has long justified its own failures to limit the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by pointing to the inaction of heavy emitters like the U.S. and China, but that excuse does not stand up to scrutiny.

The U.S. is likely to meet its 2020 emissions reduction target, and is now committing to reduce emissions even further by 2025. Canada, meanwhile, is on track to miss the same 2020 target by 20 per cent. In other words, the Prime Minister promised Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions will go down, but the federal government is projecting they will go up.

Some provinces, including B.C. and Ontario, have made significant progress on cutting their emissions through measures like the carbon tax and phasing out coal-fired electricity. But growth in emissions from the oilsands sector is projected to wipe out those gains.

With this announcement, China is showing real leadership on climate change. Given the energy demands of China’s growing population and economy, identifying a target year for its emissions to peak, along with a plan to invest heavily in clean energy generation, is a significant and ambitious step.

Canada has run out of excuses ….

And the European Union does not need excuses. According to the latest estimates, its collective emissions were 19% below 1990 levels at the end of 2013. Many states are within reach of their individual emissions goals for 2020, which range from 20% to more than 30% BELOW 1990 levels. The EU’s targets for adopting renewable energy sources are just as ambitious.

Germany is one of the leaders in this green revolution, which may be why it has been singled out for so much defamation. Despite all the misinformation that is being spread around, Germany would have to emit a great deal more to reach North American levels.

(Incidentally, though both Canada and US emissions have grown, they are both significantly lower than world levels.)

Screenshot 2014-11-14 15.55.47

The chart above was drawn up using data from the World Bank. Canada and the US are at the bottom because, measured per capita, they are the worst emitters of greenhouse gases in the chart. America’s individual emissions are 2 to 3 times worse than most Europeans.

Though Germany’s gross national product is similar to Canada’s per capita, in International dollars, its emissions are only ⅔ as much. Yet Germany is Europe’s leading industrial power and, within that setting, both its emissions and national product are comparatively high.

Some claim Energiewende is failing: Germany’s CO2 emissions rose in 2013 because the country had to “fall back” on fossil fuels.

I heard it was an exceptionally harsh winter and, yes, the country did use more fuel.

The basic trend seems to be an increased usage of renewables and corresponding decrease of fossil fuels. According to the latest reports from Frauenhofer, Germany used less brown coal (-3.8%), hard coal (-12.9%), and gas (-19.5%) in the first 10 months of 2014 than was the case in 2013. In fact, as you can see below, it used less of almost everything. The exceptions were wind energy (+1.2%), solar (+7.1%) and biomass (11.9%).

Screenshot 2014-11-14 16.22.45

Notes on Illustrations, in descending order:

Related: Renewable Energy In Germany (In Charts)

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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • Matthew Farnham

    Regardless though…even if iit is legit, the trend is clearly downward. Can’t expect every year to decrease. Same with the climate.

  • Matthew Farnham

    Can you please reference?? Where are your sources??? Is this just a load of gobshite??

    • Bob_Wallace

      References for which parts? There’s a list of sources at the bottom of the article.

  • Shane 2

    In terms of GHG emissions per capita, Germany is one of the worst major countries in Europe. Russia is even worse. It will be a long time before Germany gets its GHG pollution per capita down to France’s level.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      Not that long. France is phasing out nuclear power too. Today official goal is to reduce 30 % nuclear power by 2025 and by then most of the French nukes are already aging and therefore they are then calculating hard how much it is worth to spend tax payer money onto extension of service life of aging nukes?

      Germans decided that those plants that were build in 1980’s are not anymore profitable enough to continue after 2023. There is no other reasons — expect perhaps government subsidies — to end up in any other conclusion in France. Therefore it makes sense to phase out nuclear power also in France. It just does not make economic sense without direct government support. And it is very questionable if popular support of nuclear power continues in 2020’s in France.

      There is also minor quirck in electricity market economics that high share of roof-top solar power and nuclear power just do not fit into same grid. Roof-top solar + battery storage revolution will hasten the economic demise of nuclear power utilities greatly withing the next 10 years.

      • Steve Grinwis

        I’ve just learned that Canada’s old nuclear plants are apparently costing us $0.25 to $0.28 per kWh, all in. That’s terrifying, given how much electricity Ontario gets from Nuclear.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’m betting you don’t know France’s energy history.

      Or perhaps you do….

  • Kyle Field

    I’m surprised by Canada’s results and what appears to be indifference. Goes against the traditional linkage between education and informed action. I guess money and/or misinformation trumps that at times…

    • just_jim

      The climate change denying Progressive Conservatives won less than 40% of the vote, but the two other major parties split the vote, so the PC got a majority of seats.

      • Steve Grinwis

        To be fair: Cretchain won his majority with less than half the votes. As has virtually every other Canadian leader. Mostly because the bloc Quebecois sucks up a lot of votes… There are really 4 major parties…

    • Steve Grinwis

      The conservatives are unwilling to go against their major voting bloc in Alberta, where emissions are rising out of control, wiping out gains made in the rest of the country.

      I’m hoping that low oil prices, and an eventual carbon tax will convince my western province to leave that black goo in the ground. I’m lead to believe that future expansions are predicated on higher oil prices, so if oil prices stay late low, expansions to the tar sands might not happen.

      • – As things stand, tar sands projects seem to need C$80 to break even.
        – Companies have been complaining for the last several months about unexpectedly high labour and processing costs, for example today’s observation by the Chinese (who own some tar sands projects) that their inability to bring in cheaper workers from home is preventing them from making money.
        – As the easiest-to-extract resources always go first, it’s reasonable to expect that the break-even price will gradually rise over time.
        – Although the Liberals are unwilling to piss off Alberta before the next election, they’ll probably improve regulation somewhat and unshackle government scientists if they get in, thus increasing average tar sands costs a little more.
        – Once the shale gas bubble expires (5 years?) the use of natural gas for processing in the tar sands will become more expensive.
        – It’s difficult to predict whether oil supplies will decline faster than renewable energy and electric vehicles ramp up over the next few years, but large swings in fossil fuel prices are likely, reducing the willingness to invest in tar sands projects with their long lead times.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Here’s hoping…. These are massive projects, and if they can’t reliably predict long years of high oil prices, and strong demand, the business case goes away.

  • Steven F

    After Fuckushima Germany shut down a lot of nuclear power increasing emissions. It took a couple of years of renewable growth to cancel out the nuclear loss. Now coal power plants are having a very hard time making money in Germany. So the coal companies have been increasing their electricity exports (which is what they were doing just before Fuckushima Unfortunately for coal there are limits as how much they can export.

    Now 28 Coal plants have applied to the grid operator for permission to shut down permanently. Those 28 plants are capable of producing 7000 MW of power. While it is not likely that will be granted permission to shut down, some definitely will. So by the end of next year Germany will have fewer coal plants and lower CO2 emissions.

  • Todd
    • sault

      Some of the Quadrant IV countries’ electricity prices do not reflect the massive subsidies their respective nuclear industries received and will continue to receive for the 100,000+ years their waste is deadly.

      • Patrick Linsley

        Also the cost of having a powerful French military ready to deploy to West Africa any time there is a threat by Islamists or Touregs to their uranium mines in Niger (which by the way provide a quarter of the uranium for French nuclear power plants and almost a tenth of world uranium output) is totally off-book when calculating the ‘official’ cost of nuclear power in Europe (France especially). And I haven’t even gotten to the utter depravity of the Francafrique policy in ensuring a steady supply of cheap uranium from a nation as utterly destitute as Niger.

    • Neptune

      Switzerland and Sweden have lots of hydro. It’s easy to be low carbon if you have lots of hydro.

      Finland and Ontario are above 100g/kWh. Anything above 100g/kWh is not low carbon.

      France is the only real example here. And they did by accident.

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