Sustainable development in Germany - 17 Goals to Transform our World

Climate protection – Reducing greenhouse gases

Indicator 13.1.a: Greenhouse gas emissions

(Evaluation of the development of Germany in the reporting year 2019 as reporting year from indicator report 2021)


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This overview includes additional information on the indicators presented above, such as a brief definition of the indicator and a description of the politically determined target value, as well as the political intention for selecting the indicator.

Definition of indicators (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

The indicator shows emissions of the following greenhouse gases (substances or substance groups) in CO2 equivalents: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Target and intention of the German Government (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

The global average temperature on the surface of the Earth is continuously rising due to the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is already having a detectable impact on the climate system today. The German Government therefore aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions in Germany by at least 40% compared with 1990 by 2020 and by at least 55% by 2030. The intention is to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.

Data state

The data published in the indicator report 2021 is as of 31.12.2020. The data shown on the DNS-Online-Platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2021.

Last modification of code (data) 2021-05-10: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window
Last modification of code (text) 2021-09-10: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window

Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy

So that the various greenhouse gases can be collated into a single index, they are each expressed in CO2 equivalents, which means that their mass is converted into the amount of CO2 that would have an equivalent effect on global warming. However, this cumulative reporting obscures the development of each greenhouse gas on its own, as a negative trend in one can be balanced out by the positive trend in another.

The data are provided annually by the Federal Environment Agency as part of the reporting required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. The measuring and reporting of emissions is subject to a comprehensive quality-management regime.

The emissions are calculated in accordance with the territoriality or production principle.

The largest emitters of greenhouse gases and air pollutants within Germany were therefore identified, and the quantity of their emissions under certain circumstances was investigated. A specific emissions factor derived from those findings was then multiplied by the emitter’s activity data to arrive at the overall quantity of emissions. It should be noted that, in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, the indicator does not show carbon dioxide emissions arising from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). Maritime shipping and international aviation are also excluded from the calculation. Looking at developments between 2015 and 2019, it is clear that the indicator has not progressed in a stable manner. In 2015 and 2016, greenhouse-gas emissions rose slightly, by 0.3 and 0.2 percentage points respectively. Since 2017, however, they have sunk noticeably, by 1.2 percentage points in 2017 and 2.9 percentage points in 2018. Over the long term, the projected figures for 2019 from the Federal Environment Agency show a total reduction of 35.7% compared with 1990. If the trend seen over the last five reporting years continues, the target for 2020 – a reduction of 40% compared with 1990 – is unlikely to be reached.

By far the greatest share of total greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019 was carbon dioxide, at 87.7%, compared with 84.1% in 1990. Most recently, methane accounted for 6.2% of the total, with nitrous oxide on 4.3%, HFCs on 1.3% and sulphur hexafluoride on 0.5% (the latter two being figures for 2017). By far the largest proportion of CO2 emissions arise from the generation of electricity and heat. Methane and nitrous oxide are emitted primarily by agricultural production.

This summary table illustrates the evaluations of the indicator by status of previous years. This shows whether the weather symbol for an indicator has been stable or rather volatile in the past years. (Evaluations from the indicator report 2021)


13.1.a Greenhouse gas emissions


Reduce by at least 40% by 2020 and by at least 55% by 2030, in each case compared to 1990; greenhouse gas neutrality to be achieved by 2050






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Source 2

 Arbeitskreis der Umweltökonomischen Gesamtrechnungen der Länder


Arbeitskreis der Umweltökonomischen Gesamtrechnungen der Länder

Data source Greenhouse gas emissions (only available in German) opens in a new window