* Carbon emissions from power, industry unchanged last year
* Greenhouse gas emissions up 1.6 percent in EU’s biggest economy
* But Germany easily meets its Kyoto protocol commitments
* Environment agency supports EU plan to help lift CO2 prices (Recasts, leads with CO2 number specific to EU carbon trading)
By Markus Wacket
BERLIN, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions from industry and power stations in 2012 stood at 450 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous year, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) said on Monday.
UBA president Jochen Flasbarth told Reuters the volume was virtually the same because a higher rate of coal-burning in power generation plants was offset by lower industrial CO2 emissions due to an economic slowdown in the euro zone.
The number describes the CO2 volume subject to the European Union’s mandatory carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS), a cap and trade system that puts incentives on curbing climate-harming CO2 output by forcing polluters to cover their production.
The ETS is the EU’s key instrument for meeting its emissions targets under international climate protection protocols.
Germany’s stable CO2 number contrasts with a 1.6 percent rise in emissions of six greenhouse gases (GHGs) including CO2, also reported by UBA, which reflected more coal burn and more gas use for heating in a colder-than-normal winter season. That in turn was a reversal of 2011, when Germany posted a 2.8 percent fall in greenhouse gas emissions.
UBA, citing preliminary calculations, said this increase was smaller than had been expected after the government closed 40 percent of nuclear power installations in 2011. That year Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to abandon nuclear energy in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and speed up renewable power sources like wind and sunshine.
CO2 emissions overall, which include those from areas such as households and transport, rose 2.0 percent from the year before. A wider use of renewable energy, also free of CO2, kept that increase in check, UBA said.
“We did not see the large increase in greenhouse gas emissions expected as a result of Germany’s exit from nuclear power, mainly because of further expansion of renewable energy sources,” Flasbarth said.
Nuclear energy is virtually free of CO2 emissions.
The UBA, part of the environment ministry, said Germany had significantly bettered its Kyoto protocol target - reducing GHG emissions by 25.5 percent since 1990, compared to a previously agreed 21 percent.
However Flasbarth said the increased coal burning for power generation was worrying and he called for more sustainable carbon trading.
Prices for EU carbon permits have lost more than 70 percent of their value since May 2011, mainly due to an overhang of unused permits, exacerbated by slowing economies.
To help boost prices, the European Commission proposed last year to temporarily remove some 900 million EU carbon permits from the market over the next three years.
The proposal has been going through the EU process for months but Germany’s stance remains split: the conservative Environment Ministry is a proponent while the free-market Economy Ministry is opposed.
“The European Commission’s backloading plan for 900 million CO2 certificates would be a first step,” Flasbarth said.
“Ultimately, the certificates should be permanently rather than temporarily withdrawn from the market. This would be best achieved with an increase in European Union climate protection goals,” he said.
A European Parliament committee may vote to start a lawmaking process for backloading on Tuesday. (Reporting by Alexandra Hudson and Vera Eckert; Editing by Sophie Walker)