Germany adopted its first sustainable development strategy in 2002. Since then it has been updated at regular intervals. The most recent strategy determines the course of sustainable development in Germany.
Sustainability means only cutting down as much timber as can grow again. It means living from the yield and not from the substance. In terms of society it means that each generation must resolve the challenges facing it rather than passing them on to the generations to come.
Everyone decides when it comes to sustainability. Decisions on sustainability affect those who invest, manufacture and consume. It is not only a question of the ethics of making do with less. Imagination, creativity and technical expertise are called for in order to forge ahead with environmentally sound production and consumption that makes economical use of natural resources. If this is to work, everybody – the workforce and businesses, trade unions and business federations, universities and research facilities, must do their bit to actively shape structural change.
The guiding principles for sustainability
The guiding principles on which the National Sustainability Strategy are based are inter-generational equity, quality of life, social cohesion and global responsibility. Indicators are laid out in the strategy with medium- and long-term objectives to be achieved.
By way of example, emissions of greenhouse gases are to be cut by 40 per cent by 2020. By 2050 renewables are to account for 60 per cent of the energy mix, while organic farming is to account for one-fifth of all agricultural activity in the coming years.
Germany is on the right path. We already generate one third of our electricity from renewables. That significantly reduces emissions of greenhouse gases. In comparison to 1990, these emissions have been reduced by 27.7 per cent in 2014.
In 1992 the United Nations affirmed its commitment to the guiding principle of sustainable development. In Rio de Janeiro the UN adopted a global action programme. In its "Agenda 21" each of the over 170 signatory states declared itself ready and willing to translate the guiding principle into all policy fields at national level with the involvement of civil society and the private sector. Germany was one of the signatory states.
In 2002 the German government thus presented its national sustainable development strategy "Perspectives for Germany – Our Strategy for Sustainable Development". A programme of measures adopted in 2010 specified the tasks ahead and the objectives to be achieved in order to attain the goals within the remit of the German government.
The strategy and the individual measures are regularly updated. At regular intervals (every four years) the German government publishes progress reports. Every two years indicator reports provide detailed information about developments in the core areas of sustainability policy inside Germany.
In 2016 the German government radically revised the strategy to align it with the 17 sustainable development goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda, adopted by the Untied Nations in September 2015. Since Germany’s National Sustainable Development Strategy is thus significantly more international in direction, the new updated version also embraces new topic areas and objectives.
To the programme of measures and reports
An ongoing programme
Sustainable development means shaping the future with vision, imagination and creativity. It means having the courage to break new ground and try something new. It is about how we want to live in future, and how we intend to answer the questions our globalised world poses in terms of our societies and the way we do business.
The strategy is thus very far-reaching in terms of subject matter and is designed to be revised and further developed. It is a foundation for political reforms and for changes in the way businesses and consumers act.
Well beyond the environmental challenges, the concept provides guidelines for viable policies for the future across the board. It is all about overarching responsibility for economically, environmentally and socially viable development for all generations.