Where do the carbon emissions come from

The north in climate change

Status: May 28, 2019 11:32 a.m. | archive
Coal power plants - like the one in Hamburg-Moorburg that went online in 2015 - release large amounts of CO2.

Humans contribute to global warming through the emission of greenhouse gases. As one of the largest economies in the world, Germany ranks seventh. According to the Federal Environment Ministry, the country has caused almost five percent of global warming since the beginning of industrialization - even though the German share of the world population is only around one percent today.

By far the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany is carbon dioxide (88 percent), which is produced when burning fossil materials such as coal and crude oil. Methane and nitrous oxide (laughing gas), which are produced in agriculture, also play a role in the overall emissions in this country.

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Germany's CO2 emissions per capita are higher than in China

World community wants to limit greenhouse gas emissions

The Paris Agreement, ratified by 196 countries and the EU in 2015, plans to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees by the end of the century, but if possible below 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial level. Therefore, greenhouse gas emissions within the EU are to be reduced by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990, and by as much as 80 to 95 percent by 2050.

Germany does particularly badly when it comes to per capita CO2 emissions: at around 9.6 tonnes per year in 2016, they are around twice as high as the international average, which is 4.8 tonnes. For comparison: In China, where most of the greenhouse gases are emitted (more than 11 billion tons), CO2 emissions per capita are 7.6 tons. Experts are calling for per capita emissions to be limited to a maximum of two tons per year in order to stop the global warming. In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions in Germany were estimated by the Federal Environment Agency to be around 865.6 million tons.

Energy industry emits the most greenhouse gas emissions

Broken down by sector, the energy industry has by far the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. Despite the expansion of renewable energies, a large part of the electricity still comes from coal-fired power plants that burn hard coal and lignite. For example, the Moorburg coal-fired power plant went into operation in Hamburg in 2015 despite major protests by environmentalists. The exit from nuclear power means that coal-fired power plants will be held longer than originally planned.

Industry is responsible for a fifth of German CO2 emissions

The second largest source of CO2 emissions is German industry, which has only been able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions slightly since the turn of the millennium. The emissions arise primarily in the production of metals such as iron and steel, in the chemical industry and in the production of mineral products such as cement. In addition, there are indirect emissions from external electricity and heat consumption.

The transport sector has a lot of potential for savings

The transport sector is the third largest cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany - and an area with high potential for savings. In 2016, the total emissions of the transport sector exceeded the values ​​of 1990. Around 96 percent of emissions are caused by road traffic. A car with an average gasoline consumption of five liters per 100 kilometers emits around 13 kilograms of CO2. In addition, there are emissions from fuel combustion on rails, waterways and national air traffic. This does not include international air and sea traffic as well as the electricity used in rail and road traffic.

The federal government wants to allow more electric cars to roll on Germany's roads in the future in order to reduce emissions in the transport sector. Rail freight transport and local public transport are to be expanded.

Households: heating makes a difference

Private households are responsible for around ten percent of greenhouse gas emissions. They are mainly caused by heating for space heating and hot water - the emissions that result from the production of electricity for private households do not belong to this item. Experts see considerable potential for CO2 savings in living, because many houses and apartments in Germany are still poorly insulated.

Agriculture: methane and nitrous oxide are harmful to the climate

Around eight percent of the total emissions come from agriculture. However, the CO2 emissions are less relevant in this area than the extremely climate-affecting greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. Ruminants such as cattle emit methane during digestion. Nitrous oxide emissions are caused by nitrogenous fertilizers and animal husbandry. Both factors are closely related: the more fattening animals that are raised for meat production, the more methane emissions are generated and the more fields have to be fertilized for feed production. In addition, there are emissions from the transport, slaughter and cooling of the meat.

This is how much greenhouse gas every single person causes

Each individual contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in Germany and around the world - for example through their consumption and travel behavior and their choice of means of transport on the way to work or to go shopping. While tenants in particular have hardly any influence on heating emissions, when it comes to electricity consumption, each individual can pay attention to sustainability when choosing an electricity provider and efficient household appliances.

Greenhouse gas neutral by 2050?

With the "Climate Protection Plan 2050", the federal government has set targets to curb emissions. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced by 55 percent compared to 1990. Finally, by 2050 Germany is to become largely greenhouse gas neutral.

How these goals can be achieved, however, continues to be debated. In the opinion of environmentalists, the measures taken to date are far from being sufficient to implement the goals. The introduction of a CO2 tax is also currently being discussed.

Forests are important stores of CO2

Forests make an important contribution to climate protection because they absorb CO2 and store the carbon it contains. The more forest there is in Germany, the more greenhouse gases are bound. In 2017 that was almost 62 million tons of greenhouse gases. This so-called CO2 integration should also be included in the climate balance of the EU countries from 2021. Then new accounting rules for CO2 integration and greenhouse gas emissions through land use will come into force across the EU.

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THE REPORTS | 08/30/2019 | 9:15 pm