German sustainability programme reviewed

Environment minister promises national draft sustainable development strategy next spring

Germany's environment minister, Angela Merkel, today presented interim results of a national consensus programme on sustainable development. At a meeting today in Bonn, Dr Merkel said: "[We have] managed to define the main action areas and next steps on the way to sustainable development." The German environment ministry is now to develop a framework environmental programme, which will be released for public discussion next spring.

The "Steps towards sustainable, environmentally friendly development in Germany" programme was launched in late 1996. About 130 organisations have taken part, including German states, towns, businesses, trades unions, environmental groups, consumer organisations, scientists and the Church.

Working groups have focused their attention on six priority areas: climate, sustainable mobility, health, nature protection, resource conservation and environmental ethics. In each area, the working groups analysed the current situation and began articulating specific policy aims that should be adopted.

Reviewing progress today, Dr Merkel stressed that the final programme will be specific and action-oriented. "[It] will contain aims, measures and deadlines for key issues," she said.

She promised "concrete" climate protection policies and measures, recalling that the government has already agreed a national aim of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 25% (from 1990) by 2005. Quantified targets for reducing emissions - especially from road transport - of precursor chemicals of tropospheric ozone pollution are also on the cards.

Some working groups have already proposed specific targets, which the environment ministry may incorporate in its final plan. The health working group focused on noise pollution, and has recommended a limit of 65 db(A) for continuous exposure. At present, 16% of the population suffers from noise above this level, the working group calculates.

Welcoming the working groups' reports, Dr Merkel stressed the importance of "social dialogue" in arriving at a national strategy for sustainable development. "This initiative represents a first step towards understanding," she said. "In some areas, it is also a rapprochement between social groups with markedly different interests."

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

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