Climate-Neutral Berlin 2050

Tiergarten and Berlin city centre panoramic view
Tiergarten and Berlin city centre panoramic view
Image: adogg -

Berlin is going climate-neutral by 2050

Cities worldwide today are home to more than 50 per cent of the world’s population. They create about 75 per cent of all global greenhouse gases through energy production and combustion processes from fossil energies. These gases collect in the atmosphere in an above-average concentration and cause what is known as the greenhouse effect or climate change. Cities are both drivers of this development and at the same time are most vulnerable to its effects. Extreme weather events and rising temperatures as consequences of climate change are likely to be most noticeable and have a greater impact where people live in close proximity. It is therefore increasingly important for cities to contribute to solving both these problems, i.e. by making efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and by adapting their infrastructures to changing climatic conditions (adaptation). The benchmark is set by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change of 2015 in which the community of states acknowledged the need for climate action. The aim is to limit the rise in global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Cities are most important in reaching these targets as local action often has an immediate effect. It is also known that cities benefit from investments in mitigation and adaptation in various ways, e.g. through the creation of new jobs and a local added value as well as through healthier living conditions for citizens in general.

Berlin is very aware of its responsibility. It has already taken action to tackle climate change in the past. Berlin is proud to be one of the most climate-friendly cities in Germany. Compared to the year 1990, emissions of carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas in the city – have already been cut by about one third. At 4.7 tonnes of carbon emissions (2015), emissions per capita are below the national average of 9.6 tonnes (2015). Berlin aims to make an even more significant contribution and to become climate neutral by 2050.

The Act to Implement the Energy Turnaround and to Promote Climate Protection in Berlin – the Berlin Energy Turnaround Act, for short – was conceived in order to make Berlins climate targets legally binding. It came into force on 6 April 2016 and sets the framework for Berlin’s climate protection and energy policy from now on. The act stipulates that carbon dioxide emissions shall be reduced by 40 per cent by 2020, by 60 per cent by 2030 and by 85 per cent by 2050, all compared to the base year 1990. Over the long term, it is intended to reduce urban carbon emissions in Berlin by as much as 95 per cent by the middle of the century. The act requires the Berlin Senate to come up with an overall climate action plan and to monitor its implementation. It also requires the public administration to be a good role model. It stipulates a greener energy supply, more school education on climate protection and clean energy and greater efforts in adapting to the effects of climate change.

The key to the further strategy is the Berlin Energy and Climate Programme 2030, which was approved by the Berlin House of Representatives on 25 January 2018. The programme sets out suitable measures to bring carbon emission reduction on track and serves as a “roadmap” en route to climate neutrality. This is considered to be a milestone in Berlin’s climate protection policy as this is the first time that climate protection goals have been underpinned with specific strategies and measures.

Moreover, as a further focus, the Senate of Berlin is working towards phasing out coal-based power and heat generation in Berlin by 2030 at the latest in order to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from these processes. In addition, the focus is also on transport and buildings, as mobility and heating cause a large proportion of Berlin’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon neutrality needs a role model

Berlin’s administration aims to set a good example in climate-friendly behaviour for its citizens. Climate protection mainly comes down to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cutting energy use and replacing fossil fuels with renewables. That is why the Berlin Energy Turnaround Act requires the central and district administrations to organise their work in a carbon-neutral manner by the year 2030. The legislation also requires the establishment of refurbishment roadmaps for public buildings, in which the building stock of the central and district administrations will be systematically documented, and the necessary energy-related refurbishment measures put into an expedient order of priority. By implementing these refurbishment roadmaps, public building stock will be comprehensively refurbished for energy efficiency by 2050. In 2014, a public energy utility (Berliner Stadtwerke) was founded, which plans, builds and operates local renewable energy systems and sells electricity and heat in Berlin. It implements measures that support the goal of supplying Berlin with 100% renewable energy in the future.

Tried-and-trusted projects

Well-established and effective projects are also being continued under the BEK 2030. These include climate protection agreements with large public utility companies in Berlin and the residential real estate industry as well as the successful model of energy-saving partnerships. The ImpulsE programme will be further developed and remains the central information and education platform.

The Berlin Energy Days, which have turned into the largest leading event for energy efficiency in Germany, are an annual highlight. A large number of people from urban society participate in the annual “Berlin Saves Energy Action Week” and the “Berlin Energy Savings Champion” competition. Projects in schools and nursery schools also serve to anchor the issue of climate protection. Until 2020, the Berlin Programme for Sustainable Development (BENE), co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will be providing resources for innovative measures and projects to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.