In a Nutshell

  • Germany plans to reach net-zero GHG emissions in 2045, and net negative GHG emissions after 2050, recognising the need for the application of both nature-based and novel carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to achieve these goals. While the country has, so far, only set national removal targets in the LULUCF sector, targets for higher durability CDR will be set soon.    
  • There are few legal restrictions on CDR application in the land use sector but geological storage of CO2 underground is not possible under the current legal framework. This oversight is poised to change with a revision to the current legal framework expected soon. 
  • The German government provides funding for research projects covering a wide range of CDR methods (nature- and technology-based), and for land management practices aimed at preserving and enhancing nature-based carbon sinks.  
  • Germany has presented its key points for three upcoming strategies: the Carbon Management, Negative Emissions and Sustainable Biomass strategies.  

Role for carbon removal in national climate policy

The Federal Climate Protection Act envisages net greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality in 2045, i.e. the creation of a balance between GHG emissions and removals, and negative GHG emissions after 2050, i.e. more removals than emissions. As such, Germany has committed to using CDR.

The Act also sets specific GHG removal targets for the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector: i) at least 25 million tonnes CO2eq are to be removed annually by 2030, ii) at least 35 million tonnes CO2e by 2040, and iii) at least 40 million tonnes CO2e by 2045.

While the Climate Protection Act does not specify precise carbon removal targets  for methods outside the LULUCF sector, they are part of Germany’s long-term strategy to offset unavoidable residual emissions and subsequently remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits. The long-term strategy emphasises the need for investment in CDR technologies as a prerequisite for Germany’s climate neutrality in 2045.

The Climate Protection Plan 2050 also highlighted the need for CDR for the goal of GHG neutrality already in 2016, but does not explicitly address novel methods. Instead, it mainly refers to land-based CDR such as increasing the sink function in forests and soils, and carbon storage in long-lived wood products.

The key points of the upcoming Negative Emissions Strategy signalled the high importance of all types of CDR for Germany to achieve its climate neutrality target by 2045. Once published, the strategy will present separate twin targets for land-based and higher-durability removals. 

Support for R&D and Innovation

The German government has been funding CDR research programmes for years. CDRTerra and CDRMare programmes explore a variety of CDR methods and their possible applications on land and at sea, and the Ariadne project, deals with the role of CDR in Germany’s net zero GHG emissions target. There are also funding measures to explore the inclusion of CDR in regional and European CO2 transport networks, and European cooperation in the storage of CO2 in the North Sea.

There are several funding opportunities for CDR application in land use. The German Strategic Plans for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) includes several eco-schemes for the increased storage of CO2 through, e.g. crop diversification with legumes and more extensive grassland management. The CAP rural development programmes also provide support for measures such as peatlands rewetting and paludiculture, long-term conversion of arable land into grassland and agroforestry, but their availability differs from province to province.

The Climate Protection Programme 2030 promotes measures to build up humus in arable land and the sustainable management of forests and the use of wood. The 2021 Immediate Climate Protection Programme builds on this to provide support for increasing the carbon sink capacity of forests and the carbon storage in durable wood products.

The federal government launched the Climate Protection Agreements, carbon contracts for difference applicable to different carbon-intensive sectors. This instrument, which compensates for potential differences between market prices of CO2 and the cost of deploying technologies aimed at reducing GHG emissions, could also be used to incentivise CDR.  

On the horizon

Any significant increase in carbon removal in Germany will require a variety of measures, including decisions for or against the use of certain CDR methods, the corresponding adaptation of the legal framework, the introduction of further support programmes, and the development of more detailed short- and long-term carbon removal targets. Following the publication of the key points of its upcoming Negative Emission Strategy, the actual strategy will set separate targets for CDR and provide clarity on how CDR will be financed nationally.  

The government is currently reviewing the legal framework for underground storage of CO2. As per the key points of the Carbon Management Strategy, several key changes to the country’s legal framework should be expected.  

Resource consumption of different CDR methods is also under discussion, especially regarding biomass use for CDR. The German government faces competing priorities as it aims to enhance the carbon sequestration capacity of natural carbon sinks (e.g. forests), which means less biomass available for material and energy uses (e.g. as building materials or to combust in power plants) and other CDR methods that depend on biomass (e.g. biochar, BECCS). This issue is set to be addressed in a future sustainable biomass strategy. The key points of this strategy have also been presented.

Contributors

Targets

  1. Net zero target: 2045
  2. Net Negative Target:

    2050

  3. First interim target: 2030
  4. Type of interim target: Emissions reduction target
  5. GHGs covered: Carbon dioxide and other GHGs
  6. Separate target for emission reduction and removals: Yes
  7. Comprehensive CDR Target: no
  8. CDR Target for Conventional Removals: yes
  9. CDR Target for Novel Removals: no
  10. Historical emissions: No
  11. Annual reporting mechanism: Annual reporting

CDR Plans

  1. Plans for carbon removal (CDR): Yes (nature-based removals e.g. Forestation, soil carbon enhancement)
  2. Planning to use external carbon credits: Yes
  3. Conditions on use of carbon credits: a

Public consultations and upcoming policies

  • Review of the legal framework for underground storage of CO2 is currently ongoing.
  • Publication of the federal Carbon Management Strategy is planned for 2023.
  • Key points of the sustainable biomass strategy have been published, with the final strategy still under development by the German government.

Key stakeholders