Projection Report 2023: despite progress, Germany is set to miss its climate targets

Reduce more emissions to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality

Germany will not achieve its self-imposed climate target for 2030 – namely to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 65% compared to 1990 – with existing measures. These measures are projected to reduce Germany’s emissions by 63% instead of 65%, leaving a gap to the targets set in the Federal Climate Change Act. The cumulative deviation from the target is projected at 331 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. If additional measures are adopted, the gap can be reduced to 194 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the German Projection Report 2023. In the report, produced on behalf of the German Environment Agency (UBA), the Oeko-Institut and other research partners describe the development of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany in two scenarios.

The analysis also shows that the goal of net greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045 will be clearly missed in both scenarios. With existing measures, 212 million tonnes of greenhouse gases will remain in the atmosphere; even with additional measures – planned but not yet adopted – the figure would be 157 million tonnes.

“Compared to the last Projection Report in 2021, we are seeing clear improvements, which can be attributed mainly to the accelerated expansion of renewable energies and the early coal phase-out,” says Dr Ralph O. Harthan, the project’s co-manager and an expert in climate change mitigation scenarios at the Oeko-Institut. “Even so, the German government must take further steps to close the gap in climate-damaging emissions to net zero by 2045.”

Emission reductions by sector

The Projection Report clearly shows that the individual sectors will make different contributions to emission reductions. “The energy sector will continue to contribute the majority of emission reductions. However, the introduction of climate-friendly manufacturing processes and energy efficiency measures in industry, for example, or carbon pricing and emissions standards in the transport sector are also effective,” explains Dr Hannah Förster, co-manager of the project and a climate projections expert at the Oeko-Institut. “The EU Emissions Trading System and the Effort Sharing Regulation will ensure that emissions are reduced across sectors.”

The research team describes the projected development of greenhouse gas emissions for all sectors in two scenarios: the “with existing measures” scenario (MMS) and the “with additional measures” scenario (MWMS). The period covered in both cases is 2021 to 2050. The “with existing measures” scenario (MMS) projects the effects of all measures agreed by the German government up to 31 August 2022. The “with additional measures” scenario (MWMS) considers all policies and measures which are currently planned and have a realistic prospect of being adopted.

Energy sector: In the energy sector, the majority of emission reductions are projected to take place by 2030 and will slow down thereafter. Emissions are projected to fall to 80 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2e) by 2030 in the “with existing measures” scenario (MMS) and to 78 Mt CO2e “with additional measures” (MWMS). This represents an over-fulfilment amounting to 38 Mt CO2e in the MMS and 37 Mt CO2e in the MWMS by 2030.

Transport: In the transport sector, the targets set in the Federal Climate Change Act are projected to be missed every year until 2030: an emission reduction gap of 210 Mt CO2e will build up in the MMS. This gap can be reduced to 187 Mt CO2e with the additional measures described in the MWMS. One of the reasons for the transport sector’s poor mitigation performance is the low number of battery electric passenger cars, which is projected at just 8.2 million, falling short of the target of 15 million BEVs in the passenger car fleet in 2030.

Industry: In the industry sector, emissions are projected to decrease to 127 Mt CO2e in the MMS and 120 Mt CO2e in the MWMS between 2022 and 2030. This leaves a gap of 83 Mt CO2e and 51 Mt CO2e, respectively. The most effective mitigation policies and measures in this sector are the programmes to promote the introduction of climate-friendly manufacturing processes, the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and a package of measures to increase energy efficiency.

Buildings: Projected emissions in 2030 are 78 Mt CO2e in the MMS and 68 Mt CO2e in the MWMS. This leaves a gap of 96 Mt CO2e and 34 Mt CO2e, respectively, against the targets. The key lever for additional mitigation in the buildings sector is ambitious implementation of the commitments made in the coalition agreement, particularly to use 65% renewable energy – in the form of heat pumps, district heating and biomass – in newly installed heating systems.

German Projection Report 2023: study by the Oeko-Institut, Fraunhofer ISI, IREES GmbH, the Thünen Institute and others