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Grid Integration in the Context of Public Transport Electrification (Röpcke et al. 2021)
15. September 2021

Study: How can Berlin become climate neutral?

September 14, 2021 | Since 2015, the Paris Climate Agreement has set the marching orders for climate protection. In order to achieve the 1.5° target if possible and at least the 2° target, not only the federal government but also all states and municipalities in Germany must significantly tighten their climate targets. In the new study “Making Berlin Paris-compliant” commissioned by the Berlin state government, RLI, as part of a scientific consortium led by the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), shows that the state of Berlin is not yet on track to meet its targets. The study recommends the state to now take additional and more stringent action for climate neutrality binding in the five sectors of energy supply, buildings, transport, economy, and consumption.

“Berlin must increase the binding nature and improve the control: The city needs a new climate governance, which prioritizes the goal of climate neutrality in all sectors and departments high and actively eliminates problems,” says energy expert and study director Professor Bernd Hirschl of IÖW. “The job is huge, what we need is a spirit on the level of space missions in all sectors. Ambitious sector targets and the introduction of a climate council are important building blocks, but so is more stakeholder and citizen participation. In our study, we recommend a total of more than 50 measures for all fields of action, which must now be addressed very quickly and consistently.”

Climate protection: the twenties are crucial

The study shows that a “business as usual” approach will not put Berlin on a path to climate neutrality. CO2 emissions in recent years are declining at a slower rate, stagnating in buildings and even increasing in transport. Only in the energy sector, they have been reduced disproportionately, thanks to the coal phase-out that has begun at both the Berlin and federal levels. However, the enormously high share of fossil fuels in the primary energy balance remains sobering at 92 percent in 2020. In order to achieve the Paris climate targets, emissions will have to be cut very sharply, especially in the next decade. Only then will it be possible to almost halve primary energy consumption in the long term and reduce emissions for electricity and heat to zero.

New scenario method: focus on restrictions and how to overcome them

How quickly can Berlin become climate neutral? Realistically and plausibly? The study examined this in several scenarios. In all fields of action, it was analyzed whether and, if so, which limiting factors exist on the path to significant and rapid emission reductions. With this newly developed method of a restriction-based approach, the researchers on the one hand assume the highest possible ambitions, but on the other hand also explicitly consider probable delays. These include many rather slow “ramp-up” effects, for example, in energy-efficient building retrofits, the diffusion of geothermal plants, or the availability of green hydrogen, due to permitting processes or shortages of skilled workers and administrative staff. In addition, there are still several conflicting goals, such as historic preservation or social compatibility. Moreover, since many obstacles have to be solved at the federal level, this can mean further delays.

For example, not all oil heating systems will have been replaced by 2030 due to their lifespan, and not all combustion cars will have been replaced either. “All in all, this means that Berlin will only be able to go about two-thirds of the way to climate neutrality by 2030 – and this despite the fact that we have assumed in this scenario that coal will be phased out nationwide and that climate-friendly technologies will be widely deployed by then,” explains Bernd Hirschl. Overcoming the limiting factors in particular must now be placed more firmly on the political agenda, the study authors demand. The state of Berlin must use all of its leeway for this, the federal government must create the appropriate framework – and in addition, cooperation with Brandenburg must be intensified, for example, on the topic of wind power imports or the circular economy.

Berlin no earlier than the beginning of the forties climate neutral

And by when can Berlin now be climate neutral? According to their scenario calculations, the researchers believe this is achievable for the forties between 2042 and 2048. “In order to be able to become climate neutral in the early 2040s, as in our best-case scenario, it’s not just Berlin that has to make a big effort. Also the Federal Republic of Germany must be already climaticneutral, and here in particular large Länder and/or partner Länder, such as Brandenburg. This connection applies all the more sharply to each year that Berlin wants to become climate neutral even earlier,” says energy expert Hirschl.

About the study

The study “Making Berlin Paris-compliant” continues the predecessor study “Climate-neutral Berlin 2050” (2014) as well as the expert opinion on the development of the Berlin Energy and Climate Protection Program (2015), in which the IÖW has already significantly contributed. In addition to RLI, the consortium led by the IÖW also includes the partners BLS Energieplan, Luftbild Umwelt Planung LUP, and IFOK GmbH. IÖW was responsible for coordination and the fields of action buildings, economy and consumption; RLI for transport, BLS Energieplan was responsible for balancing and energy supply, Luftbild Umwelt Planung LUP provided support for balancing and building data and IFOK for the participation process.

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