ZOE comments on German National Strategy for Sustainable Development

Bonn, 6 December 2019. The Science Platform Sustainability 2030 has submitted a reflection paper to the German Federal Government on recommendations for action for the further development of the German National Strategy for Sustainable Development. The paper contains our recommendations on absolute resource and emission reduction targets, an expansion of prosperity indicators and a sufficiency strategy. These are important measures for a stable and sustainable German economy beyond economic growth.

The German National Strategy for Sustainable Development forms the framework of the German Sustainability Policy. At present, however, many of its indicators are “off-track”, so the strategy can hardly have any effect. In 2020 the German Federal Government is due to carry out a fundamental revision.

More than 200 scientists from various disciplines and experts from politics, society and business commented on the DNS and made recommendations for revision. Among them was the ZOE Institute. You can read our comment here.

We are pleased that our following suggestions for revision have been included in the reflection paper of the Science Platform Sustainability 2030:

1) Absolute resource and emission reduction targets (p. 23, footnote 40).

2) The extension of the sustainability indicators within the scope of SDG No. 8 by the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) per inhabitant (p. 37 point 8.4, footnote 91). The GPI is an estimate of societal welfare, taking into account economic, ecological and social variables. It is a supplement to the gross domestic product (GDP). Due to its economic focus, GDP is an inadequate indicator of social welfare and its increase is in conflict with the achievement of ecological goals.

3) Supplementing the sustainability strategy with a sufficiency strategy for the achievement of SDG No. 12 (p. 37, point 12.1a, footnote 106). Sufficiency means the reduction of current consumption and production levels and can be achieved through appropriate sufficiency policies that make sustainable lifestyles easier and create incentives for less consumption.

Why are precisely these measures central?

The current National Strategy for Sustainable Development aims at a simultaneous feasibility of “steady and appropriate economic growth” and a reduction of environmental pollution in many areas. However, an absolute decoupling of economic growth and environmental consumption – at a sufficient speed to achieve the climate goals – is extremely doubtful from a scientific perspective, as the report ‘Decoupling Debunked’, co-edited by ZOE, shows. For successful climate policy, we need absolute resource and emission reduction targets, prosperity indicators that take into account well-being and environmental sustainability, and a supplementation of efficiency measures with those of sufficiency.

This makes a reorientation of the strategy and our recommendations central.

We are pleased that our policy proposals have been accepted and are curious to see whether they will also be reflected in the revision of the sustainability strategy.