Ambitious emissions-reduction goals are important, because they allow policymakers to coordinate and focus efforts on a defined target.
But the problem with setting lofty goals is that, eventually, they must be met.
The German government is now finding out how difficult that can be.
The country is at risk of missing its 2020 target of cutting emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels, reports Reuters.
A new report from the German environment ministry showed an emissions reduction of just 27 percent in 2015.
The government reportedly expected various policy initiatives to save between 62 million and 72 million metric tons (68 million to 79 million tons) of carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions, but expectations have now been lowered to 58 million metric tons (63 million tons), the report said.
2017 BMW i3
The emissions-reduction target covers CO2 produced from all sectors, including both transportation and energy.
Germany's government has discussed the importance of electric cars in the past, but only recently began backing up that talk with significant action.
In July, it launched a 4,000-euro ($4,294) purchase rebate, although it hasn't thus far dramatically raised the enthusiasm of consumers.
Germany's emissions-testing regulations are also under scrutiny in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel scandal.
Earlier this month, the European Union began legal action against Germany and a handful of other countries.
It argued that they had failed to introduce adequate penalties that would deter future emissions cheating similar to Volkswagen's use of illegal "defeat device" software in diesel cars.
Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)
In response to the EU claim, German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said the country had already implemented comprehensive regulations to prevent future use of "defeat devices" to cheat on emissions tests.
In the energy sector, Germany's continued reliance on fossil fuels has stymied efforts at larger-scale emissions reductions.
While policymakers have tried to encourage a shift to renewable energy, lobbyists have urged that coal mines stay open, claiming it is necessary to prevent power-supply bottlenecks.
Domestic hard-coal mining will end in 2018, but there is no timeline for phasing out higher-emission brown-coal mining, although some power plants that burn the fuel have been shut down.