A new study from the think tank Ember suggests that Germany is massively underestimating its emissions from coal mining

According to the think tank, there is a large discrepancy between the amount of coal that Germany is known to mine and its reported emissions from coal mining, relative to the rest of Europe.  

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For example, while Germany mined 131 million tonnes (t) of lignite coal from surface mines in 2022 – representing 44% of the EU’s total lignite coal production in 2022 – it only reported active coal mine methane (CMM) emissions of 1,390t, which accounts for just 1% of the EU’s total reported active surface CMM emissions in 2021. 

Ember notes that methane is the second most important greenhouse gas contributor to climate change, while coal is the largest source of methane in the energy sector in the EU.

Given that Germany has committed to the Global Methane Pledge, under which signatories commit to collectively reduce methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030, it is urgent that Germany implements a “wide-ranging measurement campaign before we can even begin to understand the extent of current underreporting, as well as a comprehensive methane mitigation strategy covering all sectors”, argues Julian Schwartzkopff, team lead of Gas Phase-Out at the non-profit Deutsche Umwelthilfe. 

As a result of analysing methane measurements from Polish lignite, Ember finds that Germany’s CMM emissions could be up to 184-times higher than what it currently reports. If this is the case, Ember notes, it would more than double Germany’s 2021 methane emissions from the entire energy sector, representing a 14% increase in national methane emissions. 

The think tank also compares Germany’s self-reported CMM emissions with three independent estimates from the International Energy Agency, US-based non profit Global Energy Monitor, and a 2023 study published in the journal Nature, by Shen et al. 

Each of these three sources suggest that Germany is massively under-reporting its CMM emissions, although as the think tank notes, there is a large variance between these individual estimates.

Separate analysis from the think tank reveals Germany as the EU country with the largest disparity between reported and independently estimated emissions.