The Expert Council on Climate Issues (Expertenrat für Klimafragen) has presented its second report on the previous year’s emissions data and submitted it to the Federal Government and the German Bundestag. In the report, prepared in accordance with § 12 of the Federal Climate Protection Act (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz), the Expert Council reviews and evaluates the calculation of the previous year’s greenhouse gas emissions by the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt), which was broken down into seven sectors and published on March 15, 2022.
In addition to the review, the Expert Council classifies the emissions development and the achievement or failure to achieve targets of individual sectors in depth and discusses the need and options for further development of the Federal Climate Protection Act. The core of the report is an examination of the Federal Environment Agency’s calculation of the previous year’s emissions.
The Expert Council has comprehensively as well as randomly reviewed the figures and finds no evidence that the agency should have come to different conclusions in its point value estimates. The reported emission values were above the annual target values specified in the Federal Climate Protection Act for the transport and building sectors.
According to § 8 (1) of the Federal Climate Protection Act, the ministries responsible for these sectors must consequently submit an immediate program within three months that ensures compliance with the annual emission levels for the respective sector for the following years. For the remaining sectors mentioned in the law, the emission levels were below the permitted annual levels.
In 2021, total greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land use, land use change and forestry / LULUCF) increased by about 4.5 percent or 33 Mt CO2 eq. compared to 2020, following a decrease of almost 9 percent in 2020. This year-on-year increase represents the largest percentage increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. In addition to the renewed growth in economic output, the increase in emissions intensity, i.e. greenhouse gas emissions in relation to gross domestic product, also contributed to this, observed for the first time since 2013.
With a view to achieving the medium- to long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets, the Expert Council on Climate Issues therefore intends to examine in its report on the trend development of greenhouse gas emissions, scheduled for fall 2022, the extent to which this increase in emissions intensity, which has made a substantial contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions over the entire period since 1990, could prove critical.
Considering the special effects of 2021, which were mainly characterized by price, weather, and storage effects, as well as by the measures to contain the Covid 19 pandemic, the Expert Council makes a more detailed classification for selected sectors. The finding is that the buildings sector missed its sector target in 2021 for the second time in a row, with special effects such as weather or storage of heating oil having a notable effect in total, but in the opposite direction. The transportation sector missed its sector target for the first time in 2021, despite the trending emissions-reducing effects of rising fuel prices and Covid 19 pandemic mitigation measures.
“Our analysis provides evidence that without the special effects, emissions in the transport sector would have tended to be even higher in 2021,” explains Hans-Martin Henning, chairman of the Expert Council. “At the same time, we confirm that the building sector exceeded the annual target value for the second time in a row. However, it should be noted in this finding that the exceedance value is smaller than the influences caused by storage and weather.”
In light of this year’s audit, which is being conducted for the second time, the panel sees a need for significant further development of the federal Climate Protection Act. “The Climate Protection Act is still quite young. In addition to fundamental issues, such as those relating to European embedding, concrete need for adaptation in terms of monitoring and control is apparent in practice in a number of places,” explains Brigitte Knopf, Vice Chair of the Expert Council. “The sector targets have an important function as a governance tool for meeting climate protection targets, but additional or adapted steering signals are needed. Equally important would be a stronger alignment of the targets and sectoral governance with the overarching instruments of European and national emissions trading. In addition, the Climate Protection Act has so far lacked forward-looking steering in the event of anticipated target failure.” The Expert Council recommends a coordinated process to further develop the federal climate protection law in the current year.
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 § 11 and § 12 of the Federal Climate Protection Act. The council 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 Expert Council on Climate Issues reviews the Federal Environment Agency‘s emissions data in accordance with § 12 (1) KSG and submits an assessment of the published data to the German Government and the German Bundestag within one month.