The Expert Council on Climate Issues (Expertenrat für Klimafragen) has presented its first report on German greenhouse gas emissions and handed it over to Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. The independent body, which was appointed by the German government in September 2020, reviews and evaluates the previous year’s emissions estimate, which was broken down by seven sectors by the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) and published on March 15, 2021. As the Expert Council on Climate Issues does not yet have its own office, several EWI scientists supported the experts preparing this first report.
The reported emission levels were below the annual target values specified in the law for all sectors mentioned in the Federal Climate Protection Act (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz) except for the building sector. However, the reporting’s early timing means that some data sources for determining the sectors’ emission levels as accurately as possible are not yet complete or are only available as estimates.
In addition, there are special effects for 2020 as part of the measures to contain the Covid 19 pandemic. Therefore, the Expert Council classifies the emission data in the individual sectors in a broader analysis. It is based on a trend extrapolation of historical emissions data for 2020, according to which the transport sector would have exceeded its maximum emissions level specified in the Federal Climate Protection Act. All other sectors would have met their respective targets, including the building sector.
The analysis also refers to the European Council’s recent decision that EU-wide greenhouse gas emissions should be 55 percent lower in 2030 than in 1990, instead of 40, and discusses the possible implications for Germany’s national sector targets.
“Closer examination of the emissions estimate has shown that the emissions data at this early stage still exhibit a quite appreciable degree of uncertainty. Moreover, because of the many special effects in 2020, they probably only represent a snapshot,” comments Marc Oliver Bettzüge on the report presented, and adds: “Germany would probably have achieved its entire climate target in 2020 even without the measures to contain the Covid 19 pandemic, thanks in particular to the positive development in the largest sector, the energy industry. However, in the other sectors, the individual sectoral assessments required by the Climate Protection Act might have been different without the pandemic.” This contrasts with climate protection measures that have already been adopted and will not begin to take effect until 2021, such as the Fuel Emissions Trading Act (Brennstoff-Emissionshandelsgesetz). Overall, Bettzüge said, the reported emissions data should be viewed in a broader context rather than in isolation.
The Expert Council on Climate Issues is an independent panel of five experts from various disciplines. It was appointed in September 2020 and is mandated by Section 11 and Section 12 of the Federal Climate Protection Act. The panel consists of 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 Expert Council on Climate Issues reviews the Federal Environment Agency’s emissions data and submits an assessment of the published data to the German government and the German Parliament within one month.