FILE -- In this Sunday, September 30, 2018 photo water vapour clouds rise from the cooling towers of the Jaenschwalde lignite-fired power plant of Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG (LEAG) in Jaenschwalde, Germany. The German government says greenhouse gases emissions in Europe's biggest economy fell 4.2% in 2018, the first major decrease in four years. Estimates published Tuesday by the Environment Ministry show Germany released the equivalent of 868.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, 38 million tons less than 2017. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP, file)
Germany's greenhouse gas emissions fell 4.2% in 2018, the first major decrease in Europe's biggest economy four years, thanks in large part to warm weather.
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Estimates published Tuesday by the Environment Ministry show Germany released the equivalent of 868.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year. That's 38 million tons less than 2017.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze acknowledged that Germany benefited from last year's warm and sunny weather , which increased production of renewable energy and reduced the need for heating fuel.
Environmentalists claimed the figures highlight the German government's failure to make a real dent in emissions in recent years.
"A warm winter can't replace successful climate policies," said Karsten Smid of Greenpeace. "Germans simply heated their homes less."
Smid noted that Germany's transport emissions remain on a par with 30 years ago.
Overall emissions in Germany last year were about 30.6% lower than in 1990. The government had originally aimed to cut them by 40% next year as part of efforts to curb climate change, but has admitted it will miss that target. It has now set a new goal of reducing emissions by at least 55% from the 1990 baseline year by 2030.
One measure that will help reduce Germany's emissions is a plan to phase out the burning of coal for electricity by 2038.
Recent figures from a European Union emissions trading system show seven of the 10 biggest emitters in the 28-nation bloc were coal-fired power plants in Germany.
Cabinet is currently debating a bill that could set legally binding emissions goals for each sector of the economy. Germany's transport minister and the country's powerful auto industry have resisted proposals to introduce speed limits on all highways or raise taxes for drivers to help cut vehicle emissions, which currently account for almost a fifth of overall emissions.