Germany hits emissions-reduction target in 2022

Germany kept greenhouse gas emissions under its target level in 2022 despite a coal-driven increase in pollution in the energy sector, figures published Wednesday showed.

Wind turbines in Bavaria
Wind turbines in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Vogl

Europe’s largest economy reduced its emissions by 1.9 percent in 2022 compared with the previous year, the federal environment agency said in a statement.

In total, Germany pumped out 746 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2022, 10 million tonnes less than its legal target for the year.

The drop came despite rising emissions in the energy sector, as Germany resorted to mothballed coal power plants to manage an energy crisis unleashed by the war in Ukraine.

The dwindling of important natural gas supplies from Russia sent Germany scrambling to find alternative sources of energy to heat its homes and power industry.

Emissions in the energy sector rose by 4.4 percent overall, the second consecutive year they had gone up, according to the agency.

Since 1990, Germany had managed to reduce its emissions by 40.4 percent, it said.

READ ALSO: Climate change the ‘biggest worry’ for people in Germany

But the traditional industrial powerhouse would have to pick up the pace to hit its climate targets for 2030.

Emissions needed to be driven down by six percent a year, while Germany was averaging a yearly reduction of under two percent since 2010, the agency said.

In 2022, a record 20.4 percent of Germany’s energy was produced from renewables such as solar and wind, according to the federal body.

Nonetheless, “a much faster pace in the expansion of renewable energy” was essential to hit the 2030 target, agency chief Dirk Messner said.

“We simply cannot afford this fatal dependence on fossil fuels,” Messner said.

“I had expected the energy numbers to be worse given the Russian war of aggression,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a statement.

The results were “encouraging”, Habeck said, while calling on climate protection measures to be expanded “without hesitation”.

A previous study by the energy think tank Agora Energiewende calculated Germany had slightly overshot its target for 2022.

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Older Germans ‘more knowledgeable’ about climate change than young people

Germans over the age of 50 are better informed about climate change than younger generations, a new survey has found.

Older Germans 'more knowledgeable' about climate change than young people

The results of a European Investment Bank (EIB) survey, published Monday, found that Germans over 50 tend to know more than younger generations when it comes to the causes and consequences of climate change and solutions to address it.

That finding in Germany aligned with a trend seen across Europe: Across the 27 EU member states, adults over 30 scored higher than the younger generations.

The survey was taken by 30,000 respondents across 35 countries, including all 27 EU member states as well as the UK, China, the USA, Canada, India and a few other countries.

Residents of EU member states tended to score higher than those in the US.

Considering respondents’ knowledge of the topic, Germany ranked 10th out of the EU 27, scoring just above the EU average – just below Austria and ahead of The Netherlands. Finland ranked the highest, followed by Luxembourg and Sweden.

German elders understand climate change better

Of course topical knowledge varies between different sections of the population. But perhaps the most interesting division was between the generations, with Germans aged 50 or above scoring well ahead of the younger generations in their ability to understand climate change.

Additionally respondents aged 20-29 in Germany scored lower than people over 30.

This result joins a growing body of evidence that refutes a commonly held belief that young people are more informed about climate change. Another recent study found that one in five 12 to 19-year-old German school children had never heard of climate change.

Taken together, these studies suggest that education about climate change may be lacking in Germany and across Europe.

Which climate impacts did Germans overlook the most?

Compared to understanding the causes and consequences, Germans scored significantly lower on a section of the survey in which they had to identify actions that can help mitigate climate change.

Most Germans correctly identified recycling products and using public transportation instead of driving a personal car as positive actions. 

solar and coal power

A coal-powered lignite- power plant can be seen behind the modules of the Witznitz energy park. Replacing coal and oil power with solar and wind energy sources is among Germany’s biggest energy transition challenges. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

But only 53 percent of Germans identified better insulation in buildings as being a climate solution, for example. According to Germany’s Climate Change Act (Klimaschutzgesetz), emissions from the building sector should drop by two-thirds – from 1990 levels – by 2030. Better insulation in buildings and more energy efficient heating systems, like heat-pumps, are critical for doing so.

READ ALSO: Who can apply for Germany’s new renewable heating grants for homes?

Only half of German respondents were aware that buying new clothes less frequently could lessen one’s climate impacts, and only 43 percent recognised reducing speed limits as a valid solution.

Most Germans were unaware of the significant impact that digital usage has on the climate. The rapid expansion of AI use, for example, is ramping up energy demand. Researchers have warned that AI alone could consume as much energy as the Netherlands by 2027.

Why is the European Investment Bank funding a climate knowledge survey?

Addressing the survey results, EIB Vice-President Nicola Beer said: “Climate change can only be limited if we’re all empowered to fight it.

“In our adaptation and mitigation efforts, knowledge is one of our most powerful assets.”

A statement by the EIB pointed out that, as the EU’s financing arm, the EIB invests in Germany’s green transition. One recent example is financing an upgrade of the power grid in Thuringia, so that it can transport power from wind farms to homes.

But, as with most large banks, not all of the EIB’s investments have been positive for the environment. Funds from the EIB were used by Volkswagen to develop the engine at the heart of the Dieselgate scandal, for example.

READ ALSO: Dieselgate – Volkswagen faces first mass lawsuit in Germany

That said, it does appear the EIB is taking steps to move money in the right direction: In 2019 EIB Group committed to investing €1 trillion toward climate action projects from 2021 to 2030.