March 31, 2015 / 12:30 PM / 4 years ago

German CO2 emissions fall for first time in three years

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions fell for the first time in three years in 2014, helped by a mild winter and the expansion of renewable sources of energy, the environment ministry said on Tuesday.

CO2 emissions declined by more than 41 million tonnes last year, equivalent to a drop of 4.3 percent, data from Germany’s UBA environment agency showed. Compared with 1990, emissions were down 27 percent.

“The trend is finally pointing in the right direction again,” Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said in a statement.

The decline is good news for Germany, which has made climate a key issue for its presidency of the G7 group of industrialized nations this year, but the country remains at risk of missing its medium-term emissions goal because of rising dependence on brown coal and an increase in transport emissions.

Hendricks said that a large part of last year’s reduction could be put down to the mild winter but that the expansion of renewables had played a role in squeezing out polluting gas and coal power plants.

As part of a shift away from nuclear and fossil fuels, known as the “Energiewende”, Europe’s biggest economy has rapidly expanded power generation from the sun, wind and other green sources. Renewables accounted for 27.8 percent of power consumption in 2014, up from 6.2 percent in 2000.

Emissions from gas and black coal fell by 12.9 percent and 8.2 percent respectively last year. But emissions from brown coal, which harms the environment more than other types of coal, were down only 2.2. percent.

UBA president Maria Krautzberger said the data showed the need for further action to shake Germany’s reliance on brown coal.

The government announced measures this month to force operators of coal plants to curb production at their oldest and most-polluting power stations.

Germany aims to reduce emissions from coal power stations by at least 22 million tonnes by 2020, equivalent to shutting about eight coal plants.

Transport emissions rose by more than 3 percent last year as an economic upturn and lower oil prices led to an increase in personal and business travel.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Goodman

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