Skip to main content
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 primarily regarded as the main danger. The winter of 2019-2020 in Germany was the second warmest since records began in 1881. According to Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), the German meteorological office, seasons that deviate considerably from the norm are becoming more and more frequent. Global warming has at least intensified this trend, it says.

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 2019 (gross power generation in per cent)

Source: Destatis

Exit from nuclear power

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 gradually taking place. Germany is one of just a few countries to have also committed to exiting not only nuclear but also coal-generated power. This is regarded as one of the biggest causes of CO2 emissions that are damaging to the environment. The Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment set up by the Federal government recommends an end to the coal-fired generation of power by 2038.

By the year 2030 Germany intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 55 percent compared with the 1990 benchmark. The target is to achieve a reduction of at least 70 percent by 2040, with the goal being a greenhouse gas neutral status by 2050. In November 2016 Germany was one of the first countries to specify corresponding climate-policy principles and targets in its “Climate Action Plan 2050”. With the Climate Action Plan adopted in 2019-2020 the Federal government makes climate protection binding for all sectors. The act specifies emission limits, for example, for transport, industry, buildings, and agriculture. A 30.8-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions had already been achieved by 2018.

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 
intended to be achieved before the century is out. The UN Secretariat that monitors the implementation of the framework climate convention is based in the Federal City 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 enshrined in the Basic Law

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. 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. The project carries on from the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. The latter’s mid-term review revealed that the loss of biodiversity is proceeding in line with worldwide trends. The EU and Germany see an urgent need for action here.

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.