27.02.2013
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Carbon emissions

Germany exceeds Kyoto target by 4.5 percentage points

In 2012, German carbon emissions actually increased by 1.6 percent, but the country went into last year far ahead of its Kyoto targets – which were already highly ambitious.

This week, Germany's Environmental Agency (UBA) confirmed that carbon emissions increased in Germany last year mainly for two reasons: 1) more coal power was produced and 2) the cold beginning of 2012 lead to greater natural gas consumption for domestic space heating.

The news is disconcerting for those who focus primarily on carbon emissions; skeptics of renewables can also now claim that a switch to renewables in combination with the nuclear phaseout is bad for climate change. But the UBA points out that the further growth of renewables last year prevented emissions from rising even further, largely by offsetting natural gas consumption and, increasingly, hard coal consumption in the power sector.

 - German proponents of renewables remain concerned about the uptick in coal power production, but for the time being they can celebrate surpassing the Kyoto target for carbon emissions by a wide margin.
German proponents of renewables remain concerned about the uptick in coal power production, but for the time being they can celebrate surpassing the Kyoto target for carbon emissions by a wide margin.
Thyssen-Krupp

As UBA President Jochen Flasbarth puts it, "The claim that the nuclear phaseout would increase emissions of heat-trapping gases is common but has proven to be unfounded, mainly because renewables continue to grow. I nonetheless remain concerned about the trend of increased coal power production."

As a remedy, the UBA calls for stricter limits on carbon emissions. This month, the European Parliament seemed poised to adopt "backloading," as the one-off reduction in carbon certificates is called, but the battle has not yet been won, and opposition to the proposal is still strong.

What's more, the UBA reminds everyone that 2012 was a special year: the targets for Kyoto ended. Germany had a target reduction of 21 percent below the base year of 1990, and it managed to come in at 25.5 percent reduction at the end of 2012 – the only industrialized country aside from the UK to have surpassed target that could have been considered ambitious. The UK has apparently not yet produced its final figures for 2012, having just completed the documents for 2011 at the beginning of this month, but its reductions in 2011 were already roughly on par with Germany at -25.9 percent below the level of 1990, compared to -27 percent in Germany. (Craig Morris)

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