06.05.2014 | RNE-News

Merkel wishes to promote Sustainability Code

In her speech at the annual meeting of the Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would to work towards greater dissemination of the Sustainability Code. Marlehn Thieme, chairman of the RNE, criticized the outcome of the grand coalition: sustainability, she said, had, to date, played no role in this legislative period.

Although Merkel praised the fact that, so far, over 60 companies were using the German Sustainability Code (GSC) to demonstrate to investors and consumers their commitment to sustainability in a transparent way. "But this figure could be even higher. So, wherever I have an appointment in the business sector, I'll work on clearly getting this message across, too, "Merkel announced. The concept of the GSC is, she said, cogent. "If we lead by example, this would be one way of strengthening the European dimension," Merkel said.

The Federal Chancellor also announced concrete measures. Public procurement, for example, should, in the future, be geared more towards national sustainability goals. The public sector spends annually a sum that runs into the three-digit billions on new buildings, roads or vehicles, on goods such as office supplies, IT equipment, uniforms or on services.

Also, according to Merkel, the Federal Government's report on subsidies should, in future, examine more thoroughly whether measures are sustainable. Changes, she said, also had to occur in the field of education: "In the long run, making the public more aware of the need for sustainable development and, accordingly, setting educational priorities is crucial," Merkel said.

Sustainability is a "fundamental objective and criterion/benchmark of government action" said Merkel, quoting from the coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU on the one hand and the SPD on the other. However, at a press conference, Marlehn Thieme, chair of the Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), criticized the government's track record to date.

Thieme calls for the courage to be sustainable

"I wish I had more courage to make sustainability a barometer for politics – and to do so at the international level, too." While sustainability finds general consensus, she believes this too often remains vague, however, and without any concrete consequences. She thinks, for example, that politicians have, ultimately, to make the Sustainability Code a guideline in public companies, too. "What the social market economy once was for Ludwig Erhard, that's what sustainable development must be for us today!"

"With regard to the Energiewende, to climate protection right through to digital self-determination, we need to keep in our children's future much more resolutely in mind," Thieme also said. People orienting their lifestyles, consumption and the products they buy so they are in line with the sustainability criteria are not anti-pleasure, but modern and open-minded. "This is the spirit of responsibility," she went on, "that should become a very personal attitude, a matter of the heart."

This attitude must at last be actively supported by manufacturers, trade and the political sphere. The chair of the RNE calls on the federal government in particular to promote the transition to sustainable business and consumption by means of a binding framework.

Sustainability strategy for the entire energy market

According to Alexander Müller, RNE member and sustainability expert, there is an acute need for action in the Energiewende. "We need a sustainability strategy for the entire energy market," he said. "The specific costs for solar power have fallen from 60 cents a kilowatt hour at the beginning to around 10 cents per kilowatt hour today. Customers are not benefitting from these price advantages; on the contrary, our electricity bills are increasing."

That is why, he said, the RNE has concentrated on energy costs. With an appraisal, the RNE was bringing transparency into the debate on energy costs for the very first time. "The analysis shows that electricity from either renewables or conventional power plants cannot be had for free," Müller said.

"In the future, necessary investments will not be able to be raised only through consumer prices." he added. Fundamentally new approaches were, he said, necessary here. "We didn't fund Germany's entire railway network only from the sale of tickets either."

"The federal government must, here and now, assume responsibility and decide how the power supply can be funded in the long term," said Mueller. "One important option is the advance payment fund that makes energy affordable for the consumer."

For a steadfast development of renewables beyond the 25% already achieved along with an ambitious climate protection goal, the RNE evaluation delivers facts and policy options to all stakeholders in politics, business and non-governmental organisations.

Further Information:

Council for Sustainable Development  – Press