German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she “deplores” the United States withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. A look at German and European Union carbon dioxide emissions, however, shows Germany needs to begin practicing what Merkel preaches. German emissions are in a upward trajectory, while U.S. emissions continue to decline.
Eurostat, a statistical information service of the EU government, estimates German carbon dioxide emissions rose 0.7 percent in 2016. Germany’s emissions are important for EU emissions goals because Germany emits nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as any other EU nation.
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Environmental Progress reports that German carbon dioxide emissions have been rising since 2009. This contrasts with U.S. emissions, which are now at their lowest since 1991.
German emissions rose last year, Environmental Progress reports, “as a result of the country closing one of its nuclear plants and replacing it with coal and natural gas, a new Environmental Progress analysis finds. German emissions would have declined had it not closed a nuclear plant and replaced it with coal and natural gas.”
“Germany added a whopping 10 percent more wind turbine capacity and 2.5 percent more solar panel capacity between 2015 and 2016, but generated less than one percent more electricity from wind and generated one percent less electricity from solar,” noted Environmental Progress.
Germany’s rising emissions demonstrate that wind and solar power cannot make much of a dent in carbon dioxide emissions without help from other low-emission power sources. Retiring nuclear power plants means emissions will rise even with substantial investments in wind and solar power.
Ironically, Merkel pleased the environmental left by cutting back on nuclear power. Even while adding more wind and solar capacity and signing the Paris agreement, the end result of Germany’s actions is higher German greenhouse gas emissions.
The main takeaway from Germany’s emissions record is that shutting down nuclear power will raise a country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and signing the Paris climate accord will do nothing to change that. By comparison, U.S. emissions continue to decline – despite pulling out of Paris – as low-emission natural gas power continues to replace coal, and as nuclear power retains approximately steady electricity market share.
Reductions in carbon dioxide emissions can occur without Paris. Even with Paris, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are unlikely without more natural gas and nuclear power.