The way our actions will be measured

Sustainable Development The way our actions will be measured

"We must firmly embrace the philosophy that it is the responsibility of every one of us to act sustainably," declared the Chancellor at the annual conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development. She called on her audience to get involved in discussion of the draft of the new German Sustainability Strategy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the 16th annual conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development

The sustainable development goals must be translated into more specific terms so that everyone can understand them, says Chancellor

Photo: Bundesregierung/Steins

The term "sustainability" has become firmly established in everyday language and in more technical contexts, said Chancellor Angela Merkel at the 16th annual conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development in Berlin.

In her address the Chancellor explored many different aspects of sustainability and noted, that if you were to count the number of times the term is used, you would quickly establish that "sustainability has become a general expectation with respect to the way we act" and the way our actions will be measured.

Look to the end of the century

With regard to the world’s growing population, this is all the more true since everybody is entitled to live a good life. Angela Merkel continued, "The principle of sustainability forces us to ask ourselves whether the decisions we make today are right for our grandchildren, or at least for our children." Even that means considering a timescale that goes at least up to the end of the century.

Last year the global community agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Chancellor sees this as good news. The agreement, she said, is not only an affirmation of commitment to sustainable development. It embraces the full spectrum of sustainability, including the environmental, economic and social aspects.

With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, the 2030 Agenda is even more extensive than the Millennium Development Goals. Angela Merkel explained, "They include, of course, poverty reduction, and action to tackle hunger and empower women. They also embrace education for all, climate change mitigation and adaptation, conserving biodiversity, and greater engagement for peace and the rule of law, to give only a few examples."

It is a huge success that all 193 member states of the United Nations have agreed on one set of Sustainable Development Goals, declared Angela Merkel. But the Agenda will only become effective when it is actually implemented step by step. And, she added, "We know from experience with implementing the Millennium Development Goals that we will have to work very hard." It is now a question of translating the objectives into specific terms that everyone can understand, stressed the Chancellor, and she deduced that the more people feel directly addressed the more successful our common efforts will be.

Realising sustainability at all levels

Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller demanded that sustainability must be the principle that guides the actions of individuals, societies and politicians. The single largest challenge is to create a world that is free of hunger without destroying the ecological resource base, he said, because, "the first step towards sustainability is survival".

"Sustainability is today a fundamental question of the future of our civilisation," said Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks. "It is up to our generation to lay the foundations today so that the generations to come have a world that is fit to live in." The time schedule is tight for the realisation of the 2030 Agenda. That is why the Federal Ministry of the Environment is revising the medium- and long-term targets, from urban planning to the Climate Action Plan 2050 and the Resource Efficiency Programme to the Sustainability Strategy, she reported.

Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka said, in her address, that research and education are the pillars of sustainability. She pointed to the Paris Climate Agreement in which the signatory states undertake to double research funding for renewable energy. The entire world is looking to Germany, she said, to see if it actually manages to translate its energy shift into reality and put its energy supply on a more sustainable footing. It is becoming increasingly apparent that new developments in the environmental sector pay off. Today 14 per cent of environmental technology produced worldwide comes from Germany.

Everybody can get involved

The German government invites everybody to get involved in the discussion of the draft of Germany’s new Sustainability Strategy. Interested individuals can send their comments and ideas by e-mail to by the end of July 2016.

The 16th annual conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development, appointed by the German government, focused on the further development of the country’s national Sustainability Strategy. The basis is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in September 2015. 17 Sustainable Development Goals are to benefit everybody, including the generations to come, and address a wide spectrum of issues from poverty to production and consumption, and peace and justice.