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 it has set national removal targets in the LULUCF sector, there are no quantified targets for CDR outside the LULUCF sector.
- 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.
- 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 pledged to develop a national Carbon Management Strategy and review its current legal framework around geological CO2 storage in 2023, and to develop a national long-term strategy for CDR in the future.
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.
Relevant legal frameworks
Overall, much of the legal framework relevant to CDR is developed at EU level. At the national level, some land-based biological CDR methods are actively promoted, but the legal framework for ocean-based CDR methods and methods with geological storage is restrictive.
The Carbon Dioxide Storage Act, which is relevant for CDR methods requiring underground geological CO2 storage, allows for the transport of CO2 through pipelines, as well as the storage of CO2 in the context of demonstration projects. However, it limits the maximum amount of CO2 that can be stored geologically each year to 4 million tonnes and does not currently allow new demonstration projects. Accordingly, there is no underground geological storage of CO2 in Germany at the moment.
The legal framework will need to allow transport and storage beyond technology demonstration. The upcoming Carbon Management Strategy, planned for 2023 and based on the recent evaluation on the Carbon Dioxide Storage Act, is expected to address this issue.
The London Protocol represents another hurdle for the maritime transport of CO2 across borders and the storage of CO2 in geological formations in the seabed. While two amendments have paved the way for signatory states to allow both transport and storage, Germany is yet to sign the amendment on transport (unlike neighbouring countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands). This would need to be clarified if CO2 produced in Germany is to be geologically stored abroad. (The London Protocol also severely restricts other sea-based CDR methods, such as ocean fertilisation, only permitting it for research purposes.)
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 also plans to promote climate-friendly technologies with carbon contracts for difference. This instrument, which compensates for potential differences between market prices of CO2 and the costs of deploying technologies aimed at reducing GHG emissions, could also be used to incentivise CDR methods.
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. The government has committed to developing a national long-term strategy for CDR in the future, based on the findings of funded CDR research projects, which could address some of these questions.
- The government is reviewing the legal framework for underground storage of CO2, a topic of public debate. The Carbon Management Strategy, announced for 2023, is expected to clarify the question of whether CO2 may be geologically stored in Germany.
- 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). The issue of competition over biomass (for CDR and other purposes) is set to be addressed in the upcoming sustainable biomass strategy.
- Net zero target: 2045
- Net Negative Target:
- First interim target: 2030
- Type of interim target: Emissions reduction target
- GHGs covered: Carbon dioxide and other GHGs
- Separate target for emission reduction and removals: No
- Comprehensive CDR Target: no
- CDR Target for Conventional Removals: yes
- CDR Target for Novel Removals: no
- Historical emissions: No
- Annual reporting mechanism: Annual reporting
- Plans for carbon removal (CDR): Not Specified
- Planning to use external carbon credits: Yes
- Conditions on use of carbon credits: No conditions specified
Public consultations and upcoming policies
- Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action: ministry responsible for developing and implementing policy relating to climate change and issues of the economy.
- Federal Ministry for Education and Research: ministry providing funding to CDR research projects.
- Germany Environment Agency: federal agency providing scientific support on climate policies and reporting on climate and climate-related issues.