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Germany’s Carbon Emissions Rise, Putting Climate Goals in Peril

An announcement that Germany’s emissions increased last year has put pressure on the country to expand its renewable energy infrastructure or risk delaying its climate goals.

“We can’t have a repeat of the deadlock we’ve seen in the last few years,” Deputy Minister Patrick Graichen said in a statement. “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has also made it dramatically clear just how much security and energy supply are interconnected. We can no longer afford to ignore this.”

Germany’s economy and climate ministry recently said the country produced the equivalent of about 691 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021, a 4.5% increase from 2020. It was the second straight year the country missed its climate target, reports Bloomberg Green.

Although the coalition government of recently-elected Chancellor Olaf Scholz is making climate action a priority, and aims to accelerate plans for generating almost all the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2035, the current infrastructure has been inadequate to offset stress to the energy sector. For example, emissions spiked when Germany had to burn more oil and coal after Russia capped natural gas supplies to Europe for several months in 2021.

Other nearing events are also likely to drive up emissions, such as plans to shutter three nuclear power plants, which will end up being replaced by fossil sources as renewables are too limited to meet demand, Bloomberg writes. Rebounding demand following the pandemic, and poor wind conditions that weakened clean energy output, have also left Germany without non-fossil options.

A viable pathway to lowering emissions is becoming more difficult for the country to maintain as time goes on.

Emissions have fallen 38.7% since 1990, but they need to fall another 6% per year to reach the country’s 2030 goals, writes Bloomberg. That compares with less than 2% a year on average since 2010, the economy ministry said.

Germany’s climate target to reduce emissions to 397 million tonnes in eight years will mean cutting current emissions by 293 million tonnes—nearly double the reductions made since 2010. The country will also need to triple the rate of wind and solar expansion to achieve its goal of generating 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of this decade.