Germany set to miss net zero by 2045 target as climate efforts falter

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is failing to cut emissions in the transport and building sector, a report by government climate advisers shows.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and lor Olaf Scholz and North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Hendrik Wuest standing beneath a wind turbine. Germany set to miss net zero by 2045 target, official report says.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Hendrik Wuest visit a wind park in Dueren, Germany August 22, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)


German goals to cut greenhouse emissions by 65% by 2030 are likely to be missed, meaning a longer-term net zero by 2045 target is also in doubt, reports by government climate advisers and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) show.

The European Union has sought to be a climate leader and Germany has set itself more ambitious targets than the bloc as a whole, but in many countries politics and the economic crisis have pushed the climate crisis down the agenda.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, aims to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 65% by 2030 compared with 1990. Last year its CO2 levels were already 40% below the 1990 level, but the new reports said that was not enough.

“The expected overall reduction is probably overestimated,” Hans-Martin Henning, the chairman of a council of climate experts that advises the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Failing net zero plan

The German government has ordered 130 measures in various sectors. The buildings and transport sectors in particular are failing to implement them, the council of government climate advisers’ report said.

The buildings sector is expected to be 35 million tonnes of CO2 short of target by 2030, while the transport sector is expected to have excess emissions of between 117 million and 191 million tonnes compared with the government target.

Tuesday’s advisers’ report coincided with another from the UBA that found Germany cannot become climate neutral by 2045 on the basis of planned and existing government climate policy.

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It drafted two scenarios, one for current policy and one for planned, that found only 82% and 86% of targeted emissions cuts compared to 1990, would be achieved.

“According to the current status, Germany would still emit 229 million tonnes of climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions in the target year 2045,” the UBA report found.

Government promises

The economy ministry said policies it has implemented since the current government took office in late 2021 would cut around 80% of the surplus CO2 emissions it said were a legacy of policies by the previous government. It also said the coalition government would examine the council’s findings to try to get the country on target.

Under pressure from the pro-business FDP party, the ruling coalition in June agreed to dilute a bill to phase out oil and gas heating systems from 2024. The changes would contribute to the building sector missing its targets, the report found.

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The transport sector accounts for two thirds of the emissions remaining to be cut, the UBA report showed.

The council said assumptions made by the transport ministry on the effectiveness of the planned and already implemented measures, such as a discounted national rail ticket, a CO2 surcharge on truck tolls and increased working from home, were also optimistic.

“Private vehicle individual transport is not addressed, so to speak. And that is ultimately a gap in the transport programme,” Brigitte Knopf, deputy chairwoman of the council, told a news conference presenting the report findings on Tuesday.

The transport ministry was not immediately available for comment.

In response to the reports, non-profit group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) said an emergency climate programme was needed, especially for the transport sector.

It said it would take legal action to try to enforce a speed limit on German motorways, which currently have no limits on how fast motorists can drive, and to reduce government subsidies that harm the environment, such as tax relief for company cars.

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