Council of Experts on Climate Change: Transport sector misses target

Council of Experts on Climate Change: Transport sector misses target
April 15, 2024 |

In its new review report, the German Council of Experts on Climate Change shows that the transport sector has once again missed its target. The emissions data for the building sector is not clear. EWI Director Marc Oliver Bettzüge is part of the five-member panel.

The Council of Experts on Climate Change has presented its review report on the 2023 emissions data. In the report, which is prepared annually in accordance with the Federal Climate Change Act (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz, KSG), the Council of Experts examines and evaluates the calculation of the previous year’s emissions submitted by the Federal Environment Agency and looks at developments in selected sectors. In addition, the Council of Experts updates its assessment of the Climate Action Programme 2023 and last year’s immediate action programmes for the buildings and transport sectors. It takes into account political decisions that have been made in the meantime, including the budget ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court.

The Council of Experts was generally able to understand the calculation of the previous year’s emissions. Overall, the review showed that the Federal Environment Agency should not have, but could have, arrived at different results when calculating the emissions for 2023. The Council of Experts once again points out the considerable uncertainty of the emissions data for the sectors, which arises due to the early calculation date, particularly in the buildings sector.

Transport falls well short, exceedance in the buildings sector unclear

Despite the uncertainties, the Council of Experts confirms the sharp decline in emissions in 2023 compared to the previous year by around 10 percent from 750 to 674 Mt CO2-eq. This is the highest percentage decrease within one year since 1990. The implicit target for total emissions was thus achieved. The energy sector (-20 percent), industry (-8 percent) and buildings (-8 percent) in particular recorded high reductions in emissions. By contrast, the transport sector (-1 percent) fell well short of its target by 12.8 Mt CO2-eq.

“The renewed failure to meet the annual target is clear from the results of our review in the transport sector,” says Hans-Martin Henning, Chairman of the Council of Experts. “In the building sector, on the other hand, we can neither confirm nor reject the narrow overshoot of the annual target in view of the great uncertainty of the calculated data. However, according to the wording of the law, there is a need for a so-forth program for both sectors.”

Decline in production in the energy-intensive industry is the most important factor

At around 52 Mt CO2 eq., the energy industry made the largest contribution to the decline in emissions from 2022 to 2023. This was primarily due to a sharp drop in coal-fired power generation. An important reason for this was the weaker demand for electricity from energy-intensive industry. As in the previous year, the decline in emissions in industry by 13 Mt CO2 eq. is primarily due to the sharp drop in production in the energy-intensive industry. This and the generally weak economic performance also contributed to the decline in emissions from road freight transport, while emissions from car traffic increased. The biggest influence on the fall in emissions in the building sector by 8 Mt CO2-eq. is likely to have been the gas savings already observed in the previous year due to changes in heating behavior. Changes in the heating structure and the persistently mild weather also contributed to the reduction.

Commenting on the substantial decrease in total emissions, Henning says: “Without the decline in energy-intensive industry and the mild weather again in 2023, emissions would have been significantly higher. As a result, the implicit annual target for all sectors would probably not have been achieved overall. However, the decline in heating demand may tend to stabilize due to rising temperatures.”

Climate Action Programme and immediate action program 2023

Since the Climate Action Programme was adopted in summer 2023, there have been political changes that have affected the implementation of the program. These include, above all, the cuts to the Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF) following the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court on the budget. These translate into programme cuts in 2024 and a reduction in the reserve as a funding basis for the coming years. “The KTF ruling results in funding cuts this year and narrows the scope for the following years. As almost half of the measures in the Climate Action Programme are of a fiscal nature, this reduces the likelihood that the assumed reduction effect will actually occur,” says Deputy Chairwoman Brigitte Knopf.

In addition to the effects of the financial cuts in the KTF on the Climate Action Programme as a whole, the Council of Experts identifies further implementation deficits in the immediate action programs for buildings and transport contained therein. In the buildings sector, the less ambitious implementation of the climate protection program increases doubts about the achievability of the targeted reduction effect. Some measures in the transport sector are also expected to have a reduced effect, and an increase in car traffic can also be observed. Knopf states: “The reassessment has reaffirmed what we already said last summer: The measures adopted in the Climate Action Programme for buildings and transport are not sufficient to achieve the sectoral targets. In the transport sector in particular, there remains a considerable gap in compliance by 2030.”

The Council of Experts on Climate Change is an independent body of five expert persons from various disciplines. It was appointed in September 2020 and its mandate derives from sections 11 and 12 KSG. The panel consists of the five members Prof. Dr. Hans-Martin Henning (Chair), Dr. Brigitte Knopf (Vice Chair), Prof. Dr. Marc Oliver Bettzüge, Prof. Dr. Thomas Heimer and Dr. Barbara Schlomann. In addition to other statutory tasks, the Council of Experts examines the measures to be adopted in the event of target failure with regard to the greenhouse gas reduction assumptions on which they are based, in accordance with Section 12 (2) KSG, and issues an opinion before a Climate Action Programme is adopted, in accordance with Section 12 (3) KSG.