It could hardly be more sustainable

Federal environment agency gives federal environmental policy excellent marks

"Germany has made good progress toward sustainable development in recent years. Air, water and soil have become significantly cleaner. Central political decisions, for example in the context of the energy turnaround, were made by the federal government."

With these uplifting words, the federal environment agency (uba) recently announced its second future study "sustainable development in germany" at. Four years after the uba had examined the areas of energy, food production, environmentally friendly mobility, material flow management and consumption in an initial study, the study conducted by prof. Andreas troge now also deals with the phenomena of tourism, industrial production and resource conservation.

But the study does not actually read as positively as troge and his guest, federal environment minister jurgen trittin, wanted to be on the day of the presentation. Although in the climate and energy sector "a considerable increase in efficiency and a decoupling of economic growth and energy consumption" which puts germany in the gratifying position of having already fulfilled 85% of its contribution to the kyoto protocol. And the general precautions taken to protect the climate, the significant reductions in co2 emissions from private households and the lowering of carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector are also quite impressive.

When it comes to species protection and the overuse of land in germany, however, the situation looks quite different. In such cases "a turnaround can still be achieved", the uba freely admits. In any case, the study does not seem to be too specific and fixed on numbers, as it essentially concentrates on the description of various scenarios. There is the status quo scenario, the efficiency scenario, and finally the sustainability scenario, the reality of which is open to considerable debate.

For example, the sustainability scenario "steps toward sustainable mobility" ames that by 2030 transport-related co2 emissions will be reduced by 50% compared to 1990, air pollutant emissions will decrease by 93-96%, and noise levels will not exceed 65 db(a) during the day. Does not go?

It is possible, says the uba, but only if a comprehensive catalog of measures is meticulously observed. This ranges from the "the introduction of regulatory limits for co2" and "stricter alarm limits" to a "continuous increase in the mineral oil tax", a "a vehicle tax differentiated according to co2", emission-dependent road tolls for trucks" and the "strengthening local public transport" up to the "internalization of external costs of transport" and the "demand for regional economic cycles".

In order to put these requirements into practice, the environmental agency believes that politicians should use the classic approach of regulatory, planning and economic instruments. However, the uba has also learned that the rosy future can hardly be conquered with approval procedures, environmental impact assessments or urban land use planning alone. For this reason, the study also recommends "other instruments to strengthen individual responsibility", such as: "voluntary commitments, instruments of integrated product policy, education for sustainable development." in this way, the environmentally conscious consumer should be taught to, "that the urgently needed changes in everyday behavior need by no means amount to a deterioration of personal living conditions."

This not only sounds good, but at first glance also surprisingly precise. The uba is already quite clear about what the goals of a successful environmental policy in germany should be and how these goals are to be achieved. Whether the opinion of the scientists is shared by the political decision-makers, whether the social and economic framework conditions are given for a realization today or at least in the year 2030, whether the supporters of sustainable development succeed in overcoming even a fraction of the certainly countless obstacles, is another matter. But without this, the uba’s scenarios are unfortunately not much more than a well-intentioned occupational therapy.

Dialogue page of the federal government on the subject of sustainable development in germany

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