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Environment & climate

A Pioneer in Climate Policy

Internationally, Germany leads the way in climate protection and is a pioneer in the development of renewable energies.
Weltkugel in Händen
© Getty Images

The 21st century is regarded as the “century of the environment”. In other words, the extent to which the natural living conditions of future generations on Earth change will be decided in the next decades. A rise in the speed of climate change is regarded as the main danger. All over the world, incidents of extreme weather such as droughts and heatwaves, storms and flooding are becoming more frequent. In the summer of 2021 the west of Germany saw catastrophic flooding: Entire areas were underwater and many people died. In September 2021 Germany’s meteorological office, the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), noted at an extreme weather conference that in Germany nine of the ten warmest years since 1881 have occurred since the year 2000. Such an extraordinary accumulation of record years for temperature can only be down to manmade global warming, explained the DWD.

Environmental and climate protection have long been a high priority in Germany. Internationally, supported primarily by young climate activists, the global movement “Fridays for Future” has increased awareness of the protection of our natural resources still further.

Power generation in Germany in 2020 (gross power generation in per cent)

Source: Destatis

Exit from fossil and nuclear energy

With the changes to the energy sector, referred to as the energy transition, Germany is leaving the age of fossil and nuclear energy clearly behind it and has already made great advances on its way to a sustainable energy future. This involves an exit from nuclear power by 2022 that is taking place gradually. Germany is one of just a few countries to have also committed to exiting not only from nuclear but also from coal-generated power. This is regarded as one of the biggest causes of CO2 emissions that are damaging to the environment. The law initially provided for a phase-out by 2038, but the Federal Government Federal Government The Federal Government and cabinet is made up of the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. While the Chancellor holds the power to issue directives, the ministers have departmental powers, meaning that they independently run their respective ministries in the framework of those directives… Read more › that began its term in December 2021, made up of the SPD, The Greens, and the FDP, is aiming to achieve the phase-out by as early as 2030.

The government of Federal Chancellor Federal chancellor The Federal Chancellor is the only member of the Federal Government to be elected. The constitution empowers him to personally choose his ministers, who head the most important political authorities. Moreover it is the Chancellor who determines the number of ministries and their responsibilities… Read more › Olaf Scholz (SPD) also aims to make huge progress in the expansion of renewable energies during the 2020s: By 2030, 80 percent of energy requirements should be met by renewable energies such as wind and solar power.

Clear goals in German climate protection legislation

When it launched its “Climate Action Plan 2050” back in November 2016, Germany became one of the first countries to set out firm principles and targets for climate policy with the aim of becoming greenhouse-gas-neutral by 2050. With the Climate Protection Package passed in 2019-20, the Federal Government Federal Government The Federal Government and cabinet is made up of the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. While the Chancellor holds the power to issue directives, the ministers have departmental powers, meaning that they independently run their respective ministries in the framework of those directives… Read more › has made climate protection a binding commitment in all areas. The legislation sets out reduction goals and emissions limits for sectors such as transport, industry, buildings, and agriculture.

Against the backdrop of a ruling by the Constitutional Court, the then serving German Federal Government of the CDU/CSU and the SPD under Federal Chancellor Federal chancellor The Federal Chancellor is the only member of the Federal Government to be elected. The constitution empowers him to personally choose his ministers, who head the most important political authorities. Moreover it is the Chancellor who determines the number of ministries and their responsibilities… Read more › Angela Merkel agreed in May 2021 to make targets even more ambitious. The aim is now to become greenhouse-gas-neutral by 2045. As part of this effort, Germany is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 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. In addition to carbon… Read more › by at least 65 percent on the 1990 levels by the year 2030. The target for 2040 is a decrease of at least 88 percent. By 2020, the country had already achieved a 40.8-percent reduction.

Internationally as well, the Federal Government actively supports environmental protection, cooperation on energy issues, and climate-friendly development. In line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, Germany is committed to limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The aim is to achieve broad greenhouse gas emissions neutrality worldwide at the latest in the second half of the century. To this end, emissions of carbon dioxide in the industrialised countries need to be reduced by 80 to 95 percent. Complete “decarbonisation” is planned before the century is out. The UN Secretariat that monitors the implementation of the framework climate convention is based in the Federal City of Bonn.

Germany supports the EU Commission with regard to its “European Green Deal”. This envisages the EU being a zero-carbon zone by 2050. A European climate act will make the objective binding. To achieve it, CO2 emissions in all relevant economic sectors are to be considerably reduced.

Carbon dioxide emissions in Germany

(million tons) Source: IEA

Environmental protection a national objective

An intact environment – pure air, clean water, varied nature – is a prerequisite for a high quality of life. Since 1994, environmental protection has been a national objective enshrined in the Basic Law The Basic Law The Basic Law determines that Germany is a constitutional state: All state authorities are subject to judicial control. Section 1 of the Basic Law is of particular relevance. It stipulates that respect for human dignity is the most important aspect of the constitution: “Human dignity shall be… Read more › . With regard to air and water quality, indicators have for years now evidenced considerable improvement. There has been a sharp fall in the emission of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Higher exhaust emission limits for vehicles are one reason for this. Some cities have also introduced a ban on older diesel vehicles – either in the entire city or just on some roads. However, there is still room for improvement as far as the drop in pollutants is concerned. There has also been a noticeable drop in the per capita consumption of drinking water – from a peak of 140 to around 120 litres a day.

Germany also supports the EU’s initiatives to halt the loss of biodiversity. In its Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 the EU lays down, amongat other things, new standards for industry, commerce and agriculture. These nnorms are intended to delay the decline in biodiversity and provide a basis for international agreements.

Germany is pursuing a strategy of combining economic growth and environmental protection with a view to sustainable economics. In addition to the development of renewable ­energies, the main contributory factors to this are an increase in the efficient use of energy and resources, and the smart use of regenerative raw materials. It a strategy that pays off twofold, because on the one hand the impact on the environment and climate declines, while on the other new fields of business and jobs are created.