MCC supports monitoring to achieve German climate targets

Brigitte Knopf presents the report of the Council of Experts on Climate Change at the Federal Press Conference. MCC working paper supports the Council’s expertise on the transport sector.

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Well over 1,000 audience members: "Phoenix" broadcasted via Youtube and Twitter from the House of the Federal Press Conference. | Photo: Phoenix


The independent Council of Experts on Climate Change, appointed by the German Federal Government in September 2020, has presented its first report and handed it over to the Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. In it, the Council examines and evaluates the previous year's estimate of German greenhouse gas emissions published by the German Environment Agency in March – and thus for the first time fulfils its role in the monitoring mechanism which helps the Federal Climate Change Act achieve emissions targets. Brigitte Knopf, Secretary General of the Berlin-based climate research institute MCC (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change), is the deputy chair of the five-member body.

Together with Hans-Martin Henning, the chair of the Council and Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Knopf presented the report today at the Federal Press Conference. The core of the report is the examination of the complex methodology of the previous year's estimate. It concludes that there was no indication that the agency should have reported different figures. With a view to the special factors in 2020, which are mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, the report frames the emissions data for the individual sectors within a broader analysis. According to the report, if previous trends had continued, the transport sector, rather than the building sector, would have been the only one to break the bar defined in the Federal Climate Change Act. In various scenarios, the Council of Experts also sheds light on the possible consequences of the recent tightening of the EU's 2030 emissions target on Germany's sectoral targets, since the process of implementation of the EU targets is still unclear. In view of the dynamic environment and estimation uncertainties, the Council also suggests a further development of the law: the federal ministry responsible for a sector would be required to submit an immediate action programme if certain criteria were met, even if the emission target has been achieved.

"In the mechanism of the Federal Climate Change Act, we as the Council of Experts stand between the German Environment Agency as data provider and the politicians as decision-makers," explains MCC Secretary General Knopf. "We have now checked the accounts, so to speak, and they are correct. And to stick to the metaphor, we also looked at the specific expenditure situation in 2020, as well as the expenditures that are due soon, and have provided guidance to the Federal Government, which is responsible for the accounts."

In support of the 140-page report, which is co-authored by Knopf, the MCC has made a separate contribution: a working paper, which the Council of Experts draws on in its analysis of emissions in the transport sector, among other things. In the paper, the decline in mobility resulting from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic is calculated based on real activity rates. This provides the Council of Experts, in addition to the statistical method of trend extrapolation, with an extra estimate for the hypothetical emissions in the transport sector without the lockdown effects. The MCC research team uses anonymised GPS vehicle data, mobile phone data, and other empirical surveys as a basis. Altogether, there was a total lockdown-related reduction in transport emissions of 15.2 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020. This means that without the coronavirus pandemic, the transport sector would have missed its target by about 10 million tonnes of CO2.


Via video link: The handover of the report to Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (top right), with her sub-department head Berthold Goeke (bottom left) as well as Hans-Martin Henning (bottom right) and Brigitte Knopf from the Council of Experts on Climate Change. | Photo: MCC


Further information (in German):

  • The report of the Council of Experts on Climate Change can be found here.
  • The press release of the Council of Experts on Climate Change can be found here.
  • The MCC working paper “Emissionen im Verkehrssektor in Deutschland in 2020 – Effekt von Covid-19" (Emissions in the Transport Sector in Germany in 2020 - Effect of Covid-19) can be found here.
  • The press conference on Youtube can be found here.
  • A Twitter thread by Brigitte Knopf with key statements and graphics can be found here.
  • An interview in "Zeit online" with Brigitte Knopf can be found here.