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Focus on Sustainability

Hardy Graupner (rar)October 1, 2006

Members of a national council for sustainable development have criticized the German federal government for not treating sustainablity projects as a top priority.

A man picks apples in an orchard near a turkey barn with 360 solar panels installed on the roof
The council pushed for increased use of sustainable energy, like solar powerImage: AP

At the Annual Conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development, held in Berlin this week, chairman of the expert panel Volker Hauff urged a stronger political commitment from Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrat party to support environmentally cleaner production technologies.

The council is an independent panel of government advisors established in 2001 under the previous government of Gerhard Schröder, to supervise sustainability policies and develop strategies for environmental protection.

German government not doing enough

Frimmersdorf coal-fired power plant, situated close to the town of Grevenbroich in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany
Cleaner energies are neededImage: WWF-Canon / Andrew

Addressing an audience of about 1,000 politicians and scientists in Berlin, Volker Hauff, the council's chairman, said there was a lack of commitment by the present government in supporting sustainable development in Germany.

He said not enough was being done to curb climate change, urging politicians to invest more in cleaner and energy-saving technologies, in particular, plans to help create low-emission coal-fired power plants.

Hauff added that serious attempts should be made to reduce the amount of road traffic by making other means of transport more attractive.

In response to criticisms from Hauff, Merkel pointed out the high-tech investment program her government has just agreed to.

She said the program was largely geared to ensuring sustainability and innovation with the development of advanced technologies. She hoped these innovations would also become highly exportable, especially to emerging markets such as China.

"We've come up with an innovation strategy which I believe will create up to one and half million new jobs," Merkel said.

"Germany alone and the European Union…cannot completely stop harmful environmental developments," she added. "But we can use our expertise to produce environmentally friendly technologies."

German industry working to protect environment

A person walks past solar panels
Industries that applied initatives were commendedImage: AP

Hauff praised German industry for its increasing efforts to protect the environment.

"Particularly in the past few years we've seen a growing awareness within companies that sustainable policies pay off," he said. "There are some firms which have only been treating sustainability issues as a PR measure to polish up their image. We have a growing number of big and medium-sized companies in the country which take issues related to sustainable production processes very seriously."

Insurance companies should be involved

The Berlin meeting also addressed the role of insurers.

It was agreed that the insurance sector, which is the largest industry worldwide, has a clear responsibility to develop climate risk mitigation strategies.

Many insurers, such as Munich Re Group, already reward their clients for using environmentally safe and energy-efficient technologies.

However, insurance companies across the world have voiced concern about the potential losses they could suffer, from paying out on climate change risk policies.