Germany could save millions in climate penalties because of corona crisis

During the Corona Crisis, Germany was at times at a standstill, with serious consequences for the people and the economy. However, this year's climate balance could turn out unexpectedly good - and save the federal government a lot of money. As a result of the corona crisis, the German government could avoid millions in climate protection fines. For years, Germany has actually been tearing up EU budgets for greenhouse gas emissions. At the beginning of the year, the German government still assumed that it would have to buy additional pollution rights from other countries.


Overachieving the targets because of Corona crisis

300 million euros had already been budgeted for this, but the exact price would still have been a matter of negotiation. Now, the think tank "Agora Energiewende" has calculated that the restrictions imposed by the Corona crisis should significantly reduce the deficit - or even overachieve the targets.

For sectors that are not part of the EU emissions trading scheme, the EU countries have a fixed annual greenhouse gas budget. These include transport, heating, agriculture and some industry. For the period 2013 to 2020, experts had expected a surplus of around 40 million tonnes of CO2 in Germany.

In order to do so, the federal government would have had to buy emission rights from states that do not use up their budgets. "Agora Energiewende" now expects - depending on the effect and duration of the corona measures - a result of between six million tonnes of greenhouse gas surplus and 17 million tonnes below what would actually be permitted.


Ensure these numbers in the long term with sustainability

"Germany will almost reach its EU climate protection target for 2020 in the areas of transport, buildings and agriculture," said the director of the think tank, Patrick Graichen. "This comes as a surprise because the foreseeable gap was quite large last year." Corona had cut back emissions to a level that would meet the targets. "To ensure this in the long term, leaps towards climate-friendly technologies are necessary: more electric cars, more wind and solar plants, energy-efficient buildings," Graichen warned.

The Federal Environment Ministry does not yet dare to make a forecast. For a "point charge", emissions in 2020 would have to be reduced by 10 percent compared to the previous year, a spokesperson explained. "This reduction is unlikely under normal conditions, but cannot be ruled out in the current situation due to the contact restrictions caused by the corona crisis."


Unfortunately, the winter will relativize the good figures

However, the Covid-19 shutdown does not allow for reliable emission projections for 2020, because such a thing has never existed before and it is still completely unclear how things will proceed, the spokesperson said. In any case, a temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions should not be confused with structural progress. "We still face major challenges in Germany, particularly in the transport and building sectors."

Sabine Gores from the Ökoinstitut also thinks it is too early to make predictions. "That depends, among other things, on how cold it gets in autumn and winter and whether people heat a lot," said the climate protection expert. It was also still unclear what compensatory effects there would be in the transport sector because, for example, during the pandemic people were travelling more with their own cars than with public transport.