Priority fields of action
Progress Report 2012
The Progress Report 2012 set its key points, in the year of the sustainability conference of the United Nations in Rio, on themes of global reference: sustainable economic activity, climate and energy, and sustainable water resource policy.
Sustainable economic activity stands for adapting to the challenges of our time, seizing economic opportunities and for businesses and organisations taking responsibility for our future. In the meantime, it is becoming ever more obvious: Properly understood, sustainability is a significant competitive advantage. German companies have a strong starting position in the competition arena of sustainable economic activity. Many companies are pioneers in the integration of sustainability into their business policies.
Climate and energy are central issues for sustainable development. Climate protection and adapting to climate change are among the largest challenges facing mankind in the 21st century. The effects of a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees centigrade in comparison to pre-industrial times would have grave consequences on humanity and the environment. Therefore, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by a minimum of 50% compared to 1990, by the year 2050.
Within the framework of the resolutions on the energy policy of the future, the German government has confirmed its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Germany by the year 2020 by 40% compared to 1990. By the year 2050, this amount should be reduced by 80-95%.
Internationally, the German government will further advocate a globally effective, binding climate protection agreement. Based on an equitable distribution of burden it envisages verifiable commitments for all large carbon emitters. This agreement should furthermore prevent the outsourcing of production to countries that do not enforce climate protection policies. With this agreement the German government also wants to take into account the impact of climate change on the economy, the security situation and the development of countries.
Sustainable water resource policy is of special importance for clean water as an essential basis for life and our most important resource. In Germany, the water economy has achieved a high to very high standard. The large investments into, among other things, the sewerage infrastructure and the renaturation of water bodies have resulted in visible improvements to the water quality in Germany. Nevertheless, the conservation of water bodies remains a constant task.
Dealing with water in a sustainable manner guarantees the water supply for the following generations and preserves or restores the ecological balance of the water bodies. A sustainable water policy is a cross-sectional task; various water-related aspects must be consequently strengthened in related policy areas.
Progress Report 2008
The Progress Report 2008 contains four major priorities:
Climate and energy: The increase in the Earth’s temperature and the resulting climate change is indicative of the consequences of our growing energy consumption. In order to mitigate the consequences, the German government already adopted a comprehensive Integrated Energy and Climate Programme in 2007/2008. The goals: More efficient use of energy, and more use of renewable energy sources and the latest environmental technology.
Sustainable raw materials industry: The prices of raw materials have increased due to a spike in demand in recent years, with some prices doubling in the last 5 years. This is a particular burden on the German economy especially since, being in a country with scarce natural resources, companies almost entirely depend on imports.
The solution lies in material and resource efficiency. It is about achieving closed raw material cycles. Germany has, with some materials, for example copper (at 54%), the highest recycle ratio in the world. When it comes to paper a recycle ratio of 73% is achieved. Further increases are possible concerning, for instance, the recycling of certain metals found in mobile telephones.
The goal: To double the efficiency of our use of raw materials, in comparison to 1994, by the year 2020. That means making more sparing use of available raw materials and, where possible, substituting them with renewables. The multiple uses of timber also play an important role in this context. A sustainable raw materials industry also means improving the exploitation of local resources, fostering research in this field and abolishing barriers to trade.
Demographic change: By the year 2050, the share of people older than 60 in Germany will increase from 25% today to 40%. The German government has responded to this trend: Social security systems are made future-proof through, among other things, promotion of private pensions.
New health care centres and nursing care service centres guarantee medical assistance and care, especially in rural areas. Senior citizens are more deeply integrated into educational programmes.
At the same time, the German government is creating the framework conditions so that, once again, more people will opt to have children.
Feeding the world: The number of starving people worldwide should be halved by 2015. This Millennial Development Goal has been jeopardised due to steep increases in the prices of energy and food in recent years. However, agricultural research should help to achieve increases in farming productivity. Food security must take precedence over the production of bio fuels.
Progress Report 2004
In the course of the preparation of the Progress Report 2004, the following focal points of sustainable development were defined and backed by quantifiable measures:
- New energy supply structure incorporating renewable energies
- The potential of older people in the economy and society
- Reducing land use
- Alternative fuels and engine technology
In its “Landmark Sustainability 2005” specific strategies for the following topics were added to the National Sustainability Strategy:
- Modern energy supply – integrating renewable energies to optimum effect
- Renewable raw materials - for new products and growing markets
- Sustainable forestry – developing economic perspectives
- Biodiversity – protection and utilisation.
National Sustainability Strategy 2002
The key focus points formulated in the National Sustainability Strategy “Perspectives for Germany – Our Strategy for Sustainable Development” were:
- Use energy efficiently – protect the climate effectively
- Guaranteeing mobility – protecting the environment
- Producing healthily – eating healthily
- Shaping demographic change
- Taking global responsibility
It becomes clear, that the political mandate of sustainable development is a process that must be constantly adapted to current developments. With every report on the implementation of the National Sustainability Strategy, the key points are reviewed and, if necessary, re-formulated.