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

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 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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Roy L Hales

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 Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

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