Net zero targets
We evaluate the net zero target as: Average.
In June 2021, Germany adopted its 2045 net zero target in its revised climate law and submitted its updated LTS to the UNFCCC in November 2022. The net zero target generally covers all key elements but fails to meet best practice standards for some of them. Germany also falls under the European Union net zero target (see separate CAT analysis).
Germany’s target covers all sectors and gases underpinned by an emissions pathway until 2040 and the communication of binding sectoral targets until 2030. International aviation and shipping remain outside of the target’s scope. A periodic and legally-binding review process of measures and interim targets per an Expert Council is in place. Germany provides separate reduction and removal targets with regards to LULUCF but remains unclear on any other carbon removal. The net zero target is enshrined in law by way of Germany’s Climate Protection Act.
The German government is failing to provide explicit and transparent assumptions on some key elements with an update of the ‘Climate Action Plan 2050’ still under development as of August 2023. The proposed measures aim to achieve net zero on Germany’s own territory, but it remains unclear whether Germany reserves right to use of international offset credits. Lastly, Germany has missed communicating transparent assumptions on carbon storage and removal.
Ten key elements
- Target year – Germany aims to reach net zero by 2045, and states that emissions shall move to net negative after 2050 (German Government, 2021c, 2022).
- Emissions coverage – Germany’s target covers all GHG emissions and all sectors of the economy (excluding international bunkers).
- International aviation and shipping – Germany’s net zero target excludes both international aviation and shipping. The German government only notes that it will keep emissions from international bunkers that are attributable to Germany in mind when assessing the achievement of its climate targets and will take “appropriate steps to reduce them within the limits of what is feasible at the national level” (Federal Ministry for Environment Nature Conservation, 2016; German Government, 2021c) .
- Reductions or removals outside of own borders – Germany currently provides no information on its intention to use international offset credits to meet its net zero target in its climate strategy submitted to the UNFCCC (German Government, 2022). While the climate law explicitly reserves the right to use such credits (in §3), Germany has not yet communicated its intention to rely on them (German Government, 2021c).
- Legal status – The amended climate law, together with the updated target for 2045, was adopted in June 2021. Germany had announced its first net zero target in 2016 as part of its ‘Climate Action Plan 2050’ (Federal Ministry for Environment Nature Conservation, 2016). The strategy was adopted by the government as a national climate policy but is not enshrined into law. Germany officially submitted the ‘Climate Action Plan 2050’ to the UNFCCC in 2017 as the country’s first long-term strategy (LTS) under the Paris Agreement. In November 2022, Germany submitted an update to its LTS to the UNFCCC with a full update of the ‘Climate Action Plan’, and the so-called ‘Immediate Climate Action Programme’ is still pending (German Government, 2022).
- Separate reduction & removal targets – The climate law and LTS specify a separate emission removal target for forestry. Therein, Germany sets an emissions target of -25 MtCO2e by 2030, -35 MtCO2e by 2040 and -40 MtCO2e by 2045 for the LULUCF sector. The climate law does not specify if and how other carbon removals, such as direct air capture or biomass energy carbon capture and storage could be used to reach the net zero goal.
- Review process – Germany has a legally binding process in place to review its emissions pathways, intermediate targets, milestones and associated measures in its national climate policy (Federal Ministry for Environment Nature Conservation, 2016; German Government, 2021c) .
Germany annually prepares a climate action report to monitor progress and examine the implementation of national climate policies (German Ministry of the Environment, 2020). Additionally, the updated climate law strengthened the position of the Expert Council to give its judgment on developments and trends of Germany’s emissions every two years (German Government, 2021c). The updated LTS further aims to strengthen scientific advice by establishing a ‘climate change mitigation scientific platform’ to back up the LTS and strategic support for climate policy planning (German Government, 2022).
- Carbon dioxide removal – The climate law specifies the scale of forestry removals and refers to the EU legislation on how they should be accounted for. But it does not provide transparent assumptions on carbon dioxide removals from other technologies, such as direct air capture or biomass energy carbon capture and storage, envisaged to achieve the net zero target. The national climate policy only makes general notes on carbon dioxide removals as a potential component of a long-term strategy without providing any specific detail.
- Comprehensive planning – In June 2021, Germany moved the net-zero year from 2050 to 2045 without presenting an underlying emissions reduction scenario nor any concrete measures. However, it can be positively noted that the updated climate law and updated LTS provide annual reduction targets from 2030 to 2040 and binding annual emission limits at the sectoral level until 2030. The law and strategy further state that no later than 2032, the government shall submit a legislative proposal to establish annual reduction targets for the years 2041 to 2045.
- Clarity on fairness of target – Germany recognises its responsibility for an appropriate contribution towards reaching the international climate target and acknowledges the differentiated obligation for higher-income states in doing so. Germany fails to clearly define its fairness considerations beyond a general acknowledgement of dissimilar ambitions based on economic strength. Germany does not address the gap between its net zero target considered realistic domestically and what would be a fair contribution to the global goal.
The Climate Action Tracker has defined the following good practice for all ten key elements of net zero targets. Countries can refer to this good practice to design or enhance their net zero targets.