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6 May 2021

Towards a climate-neutral Germany by 2045

How Germany can reach its climate targets before 2050

Towards a Climate-Neutral Germany by 2045


The race is on. With the Biden administration in office, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters – China, the US, and the EU – are now focused on achieving net zero. The dramatic policy shift in the US speaks to the building global momentum. The US now aims to achieve a carbon-free power system by as early as 2035. Indeed, climate policy pervades the US government’s actions with greater stringency than ever before.

The global community is in a race  against time to achieve climate neutrality. The extreme weather events that climate scientists predicted years ago are already occurring with alarming frequency, causing economic damage and human suffering on a dramatic scale.

Against this backdrop, the obvious question is whether we can accelerate our climate protection efforts. How can we achieve climate neutrality well before 2050? This study provides the answers. The previous report, “Climate-Neutral Germany 2050”, showed how the zero-carbon target adopted by the German parliament (Bundestag) can be achieved by the middle of the century. This study, by contrast, shows how climate neutrality is possible by as early as 2045.

We follow the basic approach of the original study, charting a realistic path to climate neutrality that respects asset lifetime and investment-cycles while ensuring cost-effectiveness and public acceptance. Our revised timeline for carbon neutrality in the post-2030 period is based on the rapid expansion of the hydrogen economy, a more dynamic electrification of the transport sector, an increased rate of green retrofits for buildings, and a faster transition from
animal- to plant-based proteins.

So can we achieve net-zero emissions before 2050? The answer is an emphatic “yes”. In doing so, Germany could leverage the global dynamics towards climate-neutrality particularly well and position
itself as a lead market and technology provider. Whether we will be climate-neutral as early as 2045 is ultimately a question of our collective political will and our society’s ability to find creative solutions.

Key findings

  1. A climate-neutral Germany is possible as early as 2045. Compared with the 2050 goal, achieving climate neutrality by 2045 avoids almost one billion tons of CO₂ emissions.

    This would re-establish Germany as an international leader in climate protection and make it a lead market and technology provider for climate-friendly technologies.

  2. An emissions reduction target of 65% for 2030 is a suitable milestone on the path to climate neutrality by 2045,

    and would set the stage for an accelerated transformation after 2030.

  3. Climate neutrality by 2045 means more rapid structural transformation:

    After 2030, the transformation would have to accelerate with regard to renewable energy expansion, industrial decarbonisation, and the adoption of heat pumps and electric vehicles. The transformation of the agricultural sector and the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies will have to occur sooner.

Bibliographical data

Hans Dambeck, Florian Ess, Hanno Falkenberg, Dr. Andreas Kemmler, Dr. Almut Kirchner, Marcus Koepp, Sven Kreidelmeyer, , Sebastian Lübbers, Dr. Alexander Piégsa, Sina Scheffer, Dr. Thorsten Spillmann, Nils Thamling, Aurel Wünsch, Marco Wünsch, Inka Ziegenhagen, Dr. Wiebke Zimmer, Ruth Blanck, Dr. Hannes Böttcher, Wolf Kristian Görz, Dr. Klaus Hennenberg, Dr. Felix Chr. Matthes, Margarethe Scheffler, Kirsten Wiegmann, Clemens Schneider, Dr. Georg Holtz, Mathieu Saurat, Annika Tönjes, Prof. Dr. Stefan Lechtenböhmer
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Publication date

6 May 2021

Suggested Citation
Prognos, Öko-Institut, Wuppertal-Institut (2021): Towards a Climate-Neutral Germany by 2045. How Germany can reach its climate targets before 2050 Executive Summary conducted for Stiftung Klimaneutralität, Agora Energiewende and Agora Verkehrswende.
This publication was produced within the framework of the project Climate neutral Germany 2045.


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