German CO2 emissions sink to lowest level since the 1950s

German CO2 emissions sink to lowest level since the 1950s

A study by the energy think tank Agora Energiewende has revealed that 2023 saw Germany produce the lowest carbon dioxide emissions since the 1950s, but experts say the findings should be looked at more closely before credit is due.

2023 sees German carbon emissions drop significantly

In 2023 Germany emitted 673 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 73 million tonnes fewer than the previous year. According to a report published on January 4, 2024, this brings the country’s emissions for 2023 to the lowest levels seen since the 1950s, and 46 percent lower than in 1990.

Overall, this means that Europe’s largest economy produced 722 million fewer tonnes of CO2 than the German government set for its 2023 climate goal.

What caused Germany’s 2023 drop in CO2 emissions?

A reduction in coal-fired power and output by energy-intensive industries were the greatest contributors to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in 2023. Germany is getting closer to its environmental targets of using wind and solar power to produce 80 percent of its electricity by 2030, but Agora chief Simon Müller said that the 2023 savings were not a result of “sustainable developments”.

According to Agora’s findings, only 15 percent of the reduced emissions were “permanent emissions savings”, meaning that most emissions reductions were a consequence of the energy crisis and a slower economy in 2023 rather than climate policies introduced by the coalition government.

And while industry emissions met government climate targets for 2023, both the transportation and building sectors fell short of their goals. Emissions produced by transportation were 145 million tonnes compared to the goal of 133 million tonnes, and the building sector produced 109 million tonnes rather than the government’s set limit of 101 million. In the building sector, emissions produced by heating were the largest contributor to this final figure.

Germany needs to invest more in climate policy, says Agora

Only if Germany makes a “barrage of investments” in its climate policy, can the country hope to maintain and further reduce CO2 emissions, the Agora study concluded.

The think tank suggested that adopting tax subsidy reforms and expanding public transport would be an effective way to ensure Germany reaches its climate goals sustainably. Currently, Germany’s goal is for nationwide carbon neutrality by 2045, though critics have pointed out that this target is still not in line with the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global overheating to 1,5 degrees to avoid life-threatening climate tipping points.

Agora’s findings come less than a month after the German government announced that it would cut 45 million euros of funding for its planned climate transformation fund (KTF). Scholz’s coalition was forced back to the drawing board to hastily come up with a 2024 budget at the end of December after the constitutional court deemed the original budget illegal for reassigning leftover coronavirus emergency funding money to the KTF. 

Thumb image credit: balipadma /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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