Germany sets "environment barometers"

Push for greater public participation and transparency to achieve sustainable development

The German environment ministry has unveiled an initiative designed to create greater transparency and participation regarding national policy on sustainable development. At a conference held this week in Bonn, environment minister Angela Merkel presented a framework "Programme on key environmental areas," which includes annual reporting on six "environment barometers".

This is the latest stage of a national consensus programme on sustainable development launched in 1996. An interim report was released last year (ENDS Daily 13 June 1997). The programme brings together representatives from around 130 organisations, including local government bodies, environmentalists, industry groups, trade unions, consumer societies, scientists and church groups.

The environment barometers cover six areas: climate, air, ground, nature, water and resources. According to Ms Merkel, the aim is to provide a set of data which will give a snapshot of the country's environmental situation, in the same way as figures on gross national product and unemployment do for the nation's economic and social situations.

The ministry has set policy targets for each of the environmental barometers for 2010 or 2020. A spokesperson told ENDS Daily that these were "ambitious but achievable". He stressed the importance of the consultations that led to the targets. "When the opposing sides of the debate sit down together then we begin to get an idea of what are realistic targets," he said. According to Ms Merkel, the formulation of long-term goals encourages "the participation of all social groups in achieving them".

Regarding resources, the ministry uses the factor four concept of improving resource efficiency. The target for 2020 is that energy productivity be doubled from 1990 levels, and raw materials productivity increased by factor 2.5 from 1993 levels. This is one of the first times European governments have adopted the approach to formulate national targets. "Germany is keen to be a world leader in using the theoretical advances surrounding factor four in practical applications," a ministry spokesperson told ENDS Daily.

According to Ms Merkel, the environment barometers are Germany's "first attempt" to make "the journey towards sustainable development" accessible for everybody. "Ultimately sustainable development cannot come from the state but demands action and responsible behaviour from all groups of society" she added.

Follow Up:
German environment ministry, tel: +49 228 3050.

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