Background

Greenhouse gas emissions

Roughly two thirds of global warming caused by humans (anthropogenic) can be attributed to carbon dioxide emissions. The gas is produced when the fossil fuels gas, oil and coal are burned. They all contain carbon which combines with atmospheric oxygen to form carbon dioxide. According to studies by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the consumption of fossil fuels releases over 32.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide (2014) into the atmosphere every year. In addition to carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases regulated by the Kyoto Protocol are nitrous oxide, methane, as well halogenated fluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

Integrated Energy and Climate Program

The Federal government intends to reduce German greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in comparison with 1990 by 2020 with an Integrated Energy and Climate Program. The program encompasses measures in 29 fields ranging from the promotion of co-generation (facilities which generate electricity and heat at the same time) and of renewable energy to the continued development of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), i.e., the separation and storage of carbon dioxide which accumulates in the power-generation process. The Federal Government is pursuing three central goals with the Climate Program, namely, improving safe energy supplies, cost-effectiveness and lowering environmental impact.

National parks

To a large extent the 16 national parks in Germany are located in the north of the country. They are all noteworthy for their unique nature and landscape and serve to preserve the natural diversity of rare plants and animals. The largest is the Schleswig-Holstein Mud Flats National Park Wattenmeer, with a surface area of 441,000 hectares. The smallest, Jasmund National Park on the Isle of Rügen, with its famous white cliffs, is only 3,070 hectares large.

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Nature conservation

There are around 48,000 native animal species and over 24,000 native species of land plants, mosses, fungi, lichens and algae in Germany. Nature conservation is a state goal in the Federal Republic and is entrenched in Article 20a of the Basic Law. There are thousands of designated nature conservation areas in Germany, as well as 16 national parks and 15 biosphere reserves. In addition, Germany is a signatory state to the most important international nature conservation agreements and party to almost 30 international agreements which strive to conserve the environment. The percentage of organically managed areas is increasing and in 2013 stood at 6.4 percent. In the medium term it is projected to rise to 20 percent. Consumers are also recognizing the value of organic products; in 2015 more than 70,900 products bore the official organic seal.

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Renewable Energy Sources Act

The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) is intended to advance the development of energy supply facilities driven by self-renewing sources. The goal is to increase the percentage of renewable energies in electricity consumption to at least 30 percent in 2020 and subsequently continually increase it. The EEG guarantees producers compensation at fixed rates. The law is one of a series of measures aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuels and energy imports from outside the EU. Several other states worldwide have adopted the basic features of the German EEG.

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UN Climate Council IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international group of hundreds of experts and representatives of over 100 states, who analyze climate change on Earth for the United Nations and propose measures to counter it. The fifth report was published in 2014. Leading German institutes which focus on climate change include the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, the Wuppertal Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

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