Text from the Indicator Report 2022
Short-wavelength sun rays are transmitted by various atmospheric greenhouse gases and reflected by the earth’s surface as long-wavelength thermal radiation. Greenhouse gases absorb and emit infrared radiation from the earth in different wave ranges with varying intensity, and have different residence time in the atmosphere. Hence, the effects of greenhouse gases are subject to their concentration in the atmosphere and contribute to a variable extent to the greenhouse effect. To summarise the various greenhouse gases into a single index, they are each expressed in “CO₂ equivalents”, which means that they are converted into the quantity of CO₂ that would have a comparable impact on global warming. Because of cumulation, however, the development of the individual greenhouse gases cannot be determined. A negative development of one greenhouse gas can for instance be concealed by a positive development of another greenhouse gas.
The data is provided annually by the German Environment Agency as part of the reporting required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement1 and the Federal Climate Change Act. The measuring and reporting of emissions is subject to a comprehensive quality-management regime.
The emissions are calculated in accordance with the territoriality or production principle. The largest emitters of greenhouse gases and air pollutants within Germany were therefore identified, and the quantity of their emissions under certain circumstances was investigated. A specific emissions factor derived from those findings was then multiplied by the emitter’s activity data to arrive at the overall quantity of emissions.
It should be noted that, in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, the indicator does not show carbon dioxide emissions arising from land use, land-use change and forestry. Maritime shipping and international aviation are also excluded from the calculation.
Looking at developments between 2015 and 2021, it is clear that the indicator has not progressed in a stable manner. In 2015 and 2016, greenhouse-gas emissions rose slightly by 0.3 percentage points. Since 2017, however, they have sunk noticeably, by 1.3 percentage points in 2017, 2.8 percentage points in 2018, 4.1 percentage points in 2019 and 5.7 percentage points in 2020. The targeted reduction of 40 % by 2020 in comparison to 2008 was achieved at 41.3 %. Particularly, the changes can be attributed to the consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic due to the decline in traffic and industrial output. However, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2.6 % in 2021. According to provisional emission data by the Federal Climate Change Act on long-term development, emissions reduced by 38.7 % in 2021 compared to 1990. If the development continues according to the preceding five years, the goal to reduce emissions by 65 % by 2030 compared to 1990 will be missed. Further, the former goal of the Federal Government would also be missed in the case of continuation of the trend, that is, a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 55 % by 2030.
By far the greatest share of total greenhouse-gases in 2021 was carbon dioxide, at 88.6 %, compared with 84.7 % in 1990. Most recently, methane accounted for 6.3 % of the total, with nitrous oxide on 3.6 % and the sum of fluorinated greenhouse gases on 1.5 %. By far the largest proportion of CO₂ emissions arise from the generation of electricity and heat. Methane and nitrous oxide are emitted primarily by agricultural production.
1Kyoto Protocol has expired at the end of 2020. From 2020 on, contracting parties of the UNFCCC committed to the Paris Agreement in lieu of the Kyoto Protocol.