The graph of the new estimate of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 in previous post was from Clean Energy Wire, but the data was taken from the analysis from Forum Ökologisch-Soziale Marktwirtschaft (FÖS) on behalf of Bündnis 90 / The Greens. There was also this graph in the FÖS analysis that stood out when opening the document. Most interestingly, it also showed a linear target path connecting 1990 with the final emission reduction goal in 2020:
It reminded my of the first myth of the Greenpeace brochure in which two puzzling messages were given. First was said that Germany is way ahead of its Kyoto goal (26% emission reduction achieved, compared to the expected 21%), but later was also stated that the Germans had to crank it up a notch to get where they wanted to be in 2020. Initially, those two statements seemed contradictory because if one is ahead of schedule, why the need to crank it up a notch? Did they maybe set an unreasonable target for 2020? Probably they did. But looking at this linear target path it became clear that both could be true, depending on the time frame.
The linear target path showed that emissions don’t follow this linear trend line, which at such is not unusual. But it was obvious that the initial decreasing trend in emissions was much, much stronger than the current trend. That is not hard to explain. The beginning of the graph (1990) was the first year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of East and West Germany. The cleanup of the inefficient, heavily polluting East German industry gave initially huge savings, but it becomes much harder after that. The low hanging fruit was probably already picked in the 1990s.
It is therefor no surprise that the emissions before 2003 where all below the linear target path to 2020. From 2003 on the emissions start touching and then going above the target path, deviating more from the path as they go towards 2020. Also look at the last seven years where six years went over the target path. There isn’t much of a trend, which is remarkable because the production of renewables went through the roof during the same time. One would expect a clear trend down, not a rather flat trend as we see now.
It is certainly true that Germany was ahead of schedule towards 2020 in the first part of the graph, but it slowed down in the second part and went rather flat at the end. In that second part, the biggest drop in emissions happened in 2009 and this had to do with the economic crisis, not with the energiewende or the desire to lower emissions.
So most of this decrease in emissions was not the result of the energiewende, contrary to what seems to be suggested in the brochure. It dates back to a time when renewables had a small to almost non existing share and the goal was certainly not getting CO2 emissions down. Probably it were mostly other things, like higher efficiency and energy savings, that did the trick. That is not exactly what we are being told.