'Anti-nuclear' Germany is Europe's biggest GHG emitter

13 November 2017

Germany's Energiewende policy has made things worse for the climate by shutting down carbon-free nuclear capacity and locking in the dependency on coal burning for decades, despite hundreds of billions in investments and subsidy-schemes. This is the conclusion of the European Climate Leadership Report 2017, Measuring the Metrics that Matter published last week in Bonn, Germany, at Conference of the Parties (COP) 23 by the NGO Energy for Humanity.

Energiewende, or energy transition, was introduced after Germany's government decided to phase out nuclear power in reaction to the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. At the time, Germany was obtaining around a quarter of its electricity from 17 nuclear reactors.

The Energy for Humanity report was issued on 8 November, during the UN Climate Change Conference being held in the German city until 17 November. Germany hosted the first UNFCCC COP - 1995 in Berlin. This is the second time Bonn has hosted the event - COP 6 in July 2001.

A non-profit organisation, funded by philanthropic donations and advocating for climate action and energy access, Energy for Humanity said "COP23 host" Germany is Europe’s "worst offender" on climate change policy. Its new report ranks European countries on their climate leadership using official Eurostat data and exclusive data from ElectricityMap.org.

Largest emitter

Germany is "by far the largest emitter" - accounting for 18.3% of the total greenhouse gas emissions of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association and Turkey, which is why their strategy “matters so much” for net greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, according to the report.

Germany is not decarbonising as fast as other large emitters - it is the 14th of 23 countries analysed - and, by exporting electricity generated by fossil fuels, Germany is significantly increasing the CO2-intensity of neighbouring countries' electricity consumption, the report says.

"Climate leaders are countries with hydro-power resources and strong policies to support nuclear energy, alongside renewables. These countries include Switzerland (hydro and nuclear), Norway (hydro) and Sweden (hydro and nuclear). In contrast, anti-nuclear Austria backs up its hydro capacity with fossil fuels, driving down its overall climate performance," the report says.

"Countries that have pragmatic yet ambitious climate and energy policies, such as the UK, are driving down their emissions. The UK has achieved the largest absolute reduction in GHG emissions in Europe from 2010-2015. Some Eastern Europe countries like Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic, have also decreased their high emissions levels significantly in the recent years while growing their economies," it adds.

Imports and exports

For the first time, the data accounts for cross-border flows of carbon emissions. Importing dirty electricity impacts the carbon intensity of electricity consumption in some countries. The report strongly recommends that policy makers take imports and exports into account, it says. And a high percentage of installed new renewable capacity "does not guarantee" low CO2 emissions, it adds.

"Germany does not deserve its reputation as a climate leader," Energy for Humanity Executive Director Kirsty Gogan said. "France, however, with this week's timely decision to not force accelerated shut-downs on its nuclear fleet, is bound to stay on top as one of the most decarbonized nations, while Germany falls further behind.

"The UK has demonstrated that real climate progress is possible with a policy that supports all low carbon sources including renewables and nuclear."

Rauli Partanen, an independent energy analyst and one of the report's authors, noted the document includes cross-border flows of electricity and its emissions. "Our data paints a picture that is very different from the usual reports that for example concentrate on renewable energy capacity additions. We found out that those are poor proxies for actual climate leadership and progress," he said.

The European Climate Leadership 2017 report proposes three new metrics to measure climate leadership: total GHG emissions per GDP in 2010 as baseline (leader: Switzerland); absolute GHG reductions from 2010 to 2015 for measuring recent net progress (leader: UK); and average annual decarbonisation rate from 2010 to 2015 measuring how fast countries are “greening” their economy (leader: Poland).

Reliance on coal

Countries with strong reliance on coal are in the bottom half of the climate leadership ranking of the report.

"The decision to shut down its nuclear plants prematurely means Germany has to keep its massive fleet of lignite and hard coal power plants on the grid far into the future. Germany is already failing its 2020 emission reduction targets, and there is currently no indication that it will do much better in the future. Far from advancing decarbonisation, the anti-nuclear Energiewende has locked Germany into long-term carbon dependency," the report says.

"On the other hand, the UK serves as a strong example where carbon reduction is mandated by law. Recent climate policy actions have started to work, and most recently the country has pledged to shut down its coal burning fleet by 2025; new coal plants can only be built if they are equipped with carbon capture and storage technology," it adds.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News