“The German government has made important changes as it charts a new course for sustainability policy,” commented the co-chairs of Science Platform Sustainability 2030 – Daniela Jacob, Mark Lawrence and Christa Liedtke – on the latest revision of the German Sustainable Development Strategy, which was approved and published by Cabinet on Wednesday, 10 March 2021. The introduction of six transformation areas in conjunction with enhanced reporting processes around the so-called “off-track indicators” and the related measures is a particularly promising development, they said. “Now the government must ensure that the strategy is translated into action within the near future,” said the Science Platform’s co-chairs. “This will require further adjustments to political structures and processes, where considerable room for improvement remains.”
The newly introduced transformation areas (Human well-being and capabilities, social justice; Energy transition and climate protection; Circular economics; Sustainable construction and mobility transitions; Sustainable agriculture and food systems; Pollution-free environment) could support a more coherent approach to policy development. “For this to succeed, the relevant policy fields – including their strategies, such as the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS) or the Digitalization Strategy – must be more closely integrated and linked to the German Sustainable Development Strategy,” comments Daniela Jacob. “This will require systemic and cooperative approaches to research, planning and action. These will play a crucial role in managing trade-offs and conflicting goals to improve resilience across Germany.”
“The strengthening of monitoring and follow-up procedures, especially in areas where Germany is off track, is a significant step forward,” says Christa Liedtke. Under the revised Sustainable Development Strategy, all federal ministries are now required to submit reports to the Committee of State Secretaries following the publication of the official indicator report on off-track areas and that these reports also be published. “This will increase the political pressure for further action, which is much-needed if Germany is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” Last but not least, efforts must be undertaken to anchor the German Sustainable Development Strategy and heighten awareness around sustainability across society, Christa Liedtke continued. “Communications around the strategy should be broadened, and citizens and stakeholder groups should be encouraged to take an active role in shaping its implementation. The launch of the Gemeinschaftswerk in summer 2021 offers hope – but this new forum must live up to its name and promote broad participation.”
“The governance framework for the German Sustainable Development Strategy remains incomplete,” says Mark Lawrence. There is an urgent need to strengthen the resources and management expertise around sustainable development in the Federal Chancellery and in the individual ministries. “Without this, the hard-won advances outlined in the latest update to the Sustainable Development Strategy will not take effect. We need to set our sights higher for the ‘Decade of Action’ 2020-2030 to be successful. We therefore expressly welcome the decision of the Committee of State Secretaries to draft a political declaration before the end of this legislative term, which can serve as the basis for the forthcoming coalition negotiations, especially with regard to the strengthening of governance.”
The Federal Government has comprehensively revised the German Sustainable Development Strategy following its previous update in 2018. This new version was adopted and published by Cabinet on Wednesday, 10 March 2021. The Science Platform Sustainability 2030 contributed to the further development of the strategy through impulse papers and statements.
The Sustainable Development Strategy 2021 can be dowloaded here:
Relevant papers and statements published by the Science Platform (in German):