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No. 019/12 | Berlin, 29.02.2012

Röttgen: Using resource efficiency to increase competitivenes

Federal Cabinet adopts German Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess)

The Federal Cabinet adopted the German Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess) today. The goal of the Programme is to continuously increase raw material productivity in German industry through market incentives, research and innovation and advice, and thus to promote a further decoupling of our growth from resource consumption. ProgRess is the first comprehensive programme by the German government to address the sustainable use of raw materials.

Federal Environment Minister Röttgen referred to the Programme as a “master plan for sustainable growth”. He added that the efficient use of finite resources was “one of the biggest economic, ecological and social challenges of our time” and a “key competence of future-proof societies”. He went on to say that efficient resource use limited environmental pollution, strengthened global competitiveness and created new skilled jobs: “Germany is in an excellent position to play a leading role in the necessary global transformation towards a resource-efficient economy. We want to show how resource efficiency can be increased and raw material consumption decreased in a highly industrialised country without a decline in prosperity.”

At the core of ProgRess are new strategic approaches, activities and examples geared towards increasing resource efficiency. The Programme covers the entire value chain. It is about securing a sustainable raw material supply, raising resource efficiency in production, steering consumption towards resource efficiency, enhancing resource-efficient closed cycle management and using overarching instruments. The Programme seeks to support voluntary measures and initiatives in industry and society. Examples include strengthening efficiency advice for small and medium-sized enterprises, supporting environmental management systems, integrating resource aspects into technical standardisation processes, placing greater emphasis on resource-efficient products and services in public procurement, strengthening voluntary product labelling and certification systems, enhancing closed cycle management and facilitating the transfer of technologies and knowledge to developing and emerging economies.

More than 68 billion tonnes of raw materials were used worldwide in 2009. This is around one third more than in 2000, and about twice as much as at the end of the 1970s. This trend is set to continue. The global population is expected to increase to more than 9 billion people by the year 2050. The economies of newly industrialising countries are growing rapidly. This is why demand for raw materials continues to grow as well. At the same time, intensive resource use has impacts on the environment, ranging from the release of greenhouse gases and pollutants into the air, water and soil to damage to ecosystems and biodiversity. Minister Röttgen commented: “The current use of natural resources already exceeds the Earth’s regenerative capacity. This is a trend we must reverse in the interest of our children and grandchildren. And this is also about global justice. Per capita consumption of raw materials in Europe is four times as high as it is in Asia, and five times as high as in Africa. However, while the industrialised nations produce the major share of global value added, the ecological and social impacts of resource consumption affect the developing countries to a disproportionate extent.”

As early as 2002 the German government laid down the goal in its National Sustainability Strategy to double raw material productivity by 2020 compared with 1994. This goal makes Germany a pioneer at international level. With the adoption of its Raw Materials Strategy on 20 October 2010 the government decided to develop a resource efficiency programme to achieve this goal. ProgRess not only shows what the German government is doing to make Germany more resource-efficient. It also contains an Annex in which 14 federal states and 23 associations and institutions present examples of their own activities in the field of resource efficiency. By launching ProgRess, the German government is joining European and international efforts. For example, the EU Commission has devoted one of the seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy to the goal of creating a resource-efficient Europe. A detailed roadmap on this was adopted in September 2011. The International Resource Panel of the United Nations published a report on decoupling natural resource use and economic growth in 2011. Resource efficiency will also be an important topic at the United Nations Rio plus 20 summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

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