To achieve climate neutrality in Germany in 2045, greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced to such an extent that a balance between residual emissions and their sinks, e.g. carbon absorbtion by forests and soils, is reached: the so-called target of "net zero" emissions has to be achieved.
In 2020, almost 90% of Germany's greenhouse gas emissions were CO₂ emissions. Because the remaining 10% - mostly methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture - are particularly difficult to avoid, Germany needs to be almost completely CO₂-neutral already a few years before it achieves climate neutrality. This means that fossil fuels have to be phased-out nearly completely, as the options for CO₂ capture and storage in Germany are severely limited.
Core strategies for reducing CO₂ emissions are (1) decarbonization of the power system, (2) efficient use of energy, (3) electrification of end use, and (4) conversion to CO₂-free fuels.
The target is therefore a comprehensive and also rapid transformation of the entire German energy system: according to the Climate Protection Act (KSG), a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 65% compared with 1990 is already required by 2030, and a reduction of at least 88% by 2040.
Total annual GHG emissions in Germany; these are mostly energy-related CO₂ emissions from combusting fossil fuels – primarily for electricity and heat generation – and from material use of fossils in industry.
The majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Germany are CO₂ emissions, most of which are released during the conversion of fossil fuels into electrical or thermal energy (electricity or heat) and in industrial processes (together 88% of GHG emissions in 2020). In Germany, the energy sector is responsible for just under 35% of these energy- and process-related CO₂ emissions, followed by industry and the transport sector with over 20% each, private households (15%), trade and services (5%), and agriculture (1%) (in 2020; UBA 2023).
Annual energy demand in end-use sectors, mainly transport, industry, commerce, and households. Primary energy use in the energy industry sector is not included.
In addition to the switch to renewables, the more efficient use of energy is an essential step toward achieving climate neutrality. Total final energy demand can provide an indication of whether efficiency gains are being achieved.
Annual demand for natural gas as a primary energy source in Germany, particularly for power generation, heating, and process heat in industry.
In contrast to other conventional primary energy sources, especially coal and mineral oil, demand for natural gas has not declined from 2015 to 2021, but increased. While the phasing-out of coal use by 2038 at the latest is regulated by law, natural gas is still the preferred energy source for heating and is used extensively to generate heat in industry. Natural gas is also seen as a "bridge" to CO₂-neutral processes based on green hydrogen. Nevertheless, climate neutrality can only be achieved by phasing out natural gas use as well.
Annual primary energy demand for lignite and hard coal in Germany, e.g. as an energy source as well as feedstocks in industry or for power generation in power plants.
In Germany, lignite is used almost exclusively for power generation, while the share of hard coal was around 60% in 2018. Most of the remaining hard coal is used in steel production.
Annual demand for oil in Germany, primarily for the production of fuels, for use as heating oil and in the petrochemical industry.
In terms of demand in 2018, the most important mineral oil products in Germany are diesel and gasoline used in transport, followed by petroleum gasoline in the petrochemical industry, light heating oil for heat generation, kerosene as aircraft fuel, and heavy heating oil used in industry.
Annual demand for fossil fuels in Germany, i.e. natural gas, lignite, hard coal and crude oil.
To achieve climate neutrality in 2045, CO₂ emissions have to be almost completely stopped a few years earlier, as opportunities for CO₂ extraction and storage in Germany are severely limited. Due to CO₂ emissions generated in particular by the conversion of fossil energy into electricity, heat and fuels, this is tantamount to almost completely phasing out fossil fuels.