Climate action in industry

The goal of the Federal Government's Climate Action Plan 2050 and it's recent decisions is to make Germany greenhouse gas-neutral by the year 2050. The Federal Government is thus orienting itself on the goal of the Paris Agreement and the EU climate protection target. Germany is making its contribution to limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to achieving global greenhouse gas neutrality in the second half of this century.

The Climate Action Plan 2050 and the climate change act are the framework for modernising the German economy and providing guidelines for all sectors (industry, energy, buildings, transport, agriculture, waste management and others) aiming for climate neutrality by 2050. In this way, it also provides important orientation for investments, which are to be made in the industrial sector in the coming years.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector

With a share of 22 per cent of the total emissions, the industrial sector was the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Germany in 2017, with the energy industry having the highest amount of emissions at 36 per cent. However, the industrial sector is also paramount for Germany as an industrial nation. This results in a core responsibility for industry to play a significant role in achieving the goal of greenhouse neutrality. As an interim goal, the climate action plan envisages a reduction of around 50 per cent in 2030 for the industrial field of activity, compared with 1990 levels. Over the past 30 years, industry has already made considerable efforts in climate action to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions: In the industrial sector, emissions were reduced by around 31 per cent by 2018, compared with 1990 levels while the value-added was significantly increased during the same period. Since 2005, however, no significant further reduction has been observed and there was even an increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 2015 and 2017.

Causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector

In addition to energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, the industrial sector also generates process-related greenhouse gas emissions. This sector thus generates three different kinds of emissions:

  1. Direct energy-related greenhouse gas emissions result from the use of fuels to provide energy (for example process heat, steam, mechanical work);
  2. Indirect energy-related greenhouse gas emissions result from the generation of the electricity used (for exapmle from a coal-fired or natural gas-fired power plant);
  3. Process-related greenhouse gas emissions that do not originate from the use of fossil fuels and raw materials for energy generation, but are primarily caused by the technology-related or process-related use of these substances in the production process, as well as the process-related release of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide.

Process-related greenhouse gas emissions in industry represent around 25 per cent of the total industrial emissions. The following sectors of basic industry account for a large part of the total industrial process-related greenhouse gas emissions in Germany:

  • Metal production (production of iron, steel and aluminium);
  • Manufacture of mineral products (cement, lime and glass); and
  • Production of basic chemicals (mainly ammonia, adipic acid and nitric acid).