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Overview of German Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess)

Achieving more with less: Federal Government adopts German Resource Efficiency Programme

With the adoption of the German Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess) in February 2012, Germany was among the first countries to determine targets, guiding principles and approaches for the protection of natural resources. To evaluate progress in this field, the German government submits a progress report every four years on the development of resource efficiency in Germany and updates the programme accordingly. Based on this report, the German government adopted the German Resource Efficiency Programme II (ProgRess II) on 2 March 2016.

1. Purpose of the programme

The overarching goal of the German Resource Efficiency Programme is to make the extraction and use of natural resources more sustainable and in doing so, live up to our responsibility to future generations and contribute to securing the natural foundations of life in the long term.

In this context, the German government is striving to decouple economic growth as far as possible from resource consumption to reduce the associated environmental burdens and strengthen the viability and competitiveness of German industry, thus promoting stable employment and social cohesion. Voluntary measures and incentives continue to play an important role in the programme. Germany's resource efficiency policy is also intended to help realise our global responsibility for the ecological and social impacts of resource utilisation. The goal must be to permanently reduce overall consumption of resources.

ProgRess II focuses on the use of abiotic and biotic raw materials. The use of raw materials is connected to the use of other natural resources such as water, air, land, soil, biodiversity and ecosystems. However, as these resources are already covered by other programmes, processes or legislation, they are not addressed in great detail by ProgRess II.

ProgRess II is based on the guiding principles set out in ProgRess I

Guiding principle 1
Combining ecological necessities with economic opportunities, innovation focus and social responsibility

Guiding principle 2
Viewing global responsibility as a key focus of our national resource policy

Guiding principle 3
Gradually making economic practices and production patterns in Germany less dependent on primary resources, developing and expanding circular economy

Guiding principle 4
Securing sustainable resource utilisation for the long term by guiding society towards qualitative growth

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2. Contents and measures

ProgRess II is divided into two parts, a report on the implementation of ProgRess I (2012 to 2015) and the continuation of the programme for the period 2016 to 2020. An annex to ProgRess II lists activities already being carried out by the German government, the Federal Länder, municipalities, associations and institutions in the field of resource efficiency.

Part one of the report provides an overview of the implementation of the German Resource Efficiency Programme from 2012 to 2015. According to the report, raw material productivity has been developing as hoped with the relevant indicators showing that economic growth has been decoupled from resource consumption.

Part two, the continuation of the programme, describes the further development of approaches and indicators for increasing resource efficiency in the period 2016 to 2020.

The efforts to increase resource efficiency along the entire value chain will be continued ambitiously with a total of 123 policy approaches. Stronger focus has been placed in particular on sustainable building and sustainable urban development and the resource efficiency of products in information and communication technology (ICT), with individual chapters dedicated to each aspect. In addition, where appropriate, energy and material flows will be increasingly considered together to exploit synergies and recognise and resolve goal conflicts at an early stage. Ten action areas are considered in this context: 

  • Securing a sustainable raw material supply
  • Increasing resource efficiency in production
  • Making production and consumption more resource-efficient
  • Developing a resource-efficient circular economy
  • Sustainable building and sustainable urban development
  • Resource-efficient information and communication technology
  • Cross-cutting instruments
  • Exploiting synergies with other policy areas and resolving goal conflicts
  • Supporting resource efficiency policy at local and regional level
  • Strengthening resource policy at international and EU level

In addition, the indicators and targets have been reviewed and expanded on. The total raw material productivity was developed as a more stable extension of the previously used raw material productivity indicator and depicts resource efficiency development in Germany. ProgRess II continues to focus on market incentives, information, consultation, education, research and innovation and on strengthening voluntary measures and initiatives. Such measures include further expanding efficiency consulting services for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), the continuation of resource efficiency networks, supporting material-efficient production processes and resource-efficient product design, increased consideration of resource aspects in standardisation processes, placing greater focus on resource-efficient products and services in public sector procurement, building up circular economy and greater integration of resource efficiency into international and European processes and institutions.

An annex to ProgRess II details activities by six federal ministries, the 16 federal Länder and 40 associations and institutions in the field of resource efficiency.

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3. Procedure

During the compilation of ProgRess II, the Federal Environment Ministry once again carried out a broad consultation process. The update of the German Resource Efficiency Programme was discussed with numerous experts and representatives of civil society groups and associations as well as with the federal Länder at various meetings, talks and events. In addition, written opinions and contributions from associations, civil society, the scientific sector and the Länder were incorporated into the programme.

As well as the consultation process, a comprehensive public participation process was carried out. The participation structure selected allowed citizens to also take part in the discussion online. As part of the national public dialogue on resource-efficient living (GesprächStoff: Ressourcenschonend leben) five public workshops were held in summer 2015 which were attended by 200 citizens selected at random. Parallel to this, all interested citizens, regardless of their location, were given the opportunity to participate in the online dialogue (from 19 May to 3 July 2015) on the projects homepage (German only). The outcomes of the workshops and online dialogue were evaluated in detail and recorded in a final report. The final report was then used to compile a citizen’s advice document (Bürgerratschlag) containing 12 recommendations for action based on the key outcomes of the public dialogue which can be found in the Annex to ProgRess II. The outcomes of the public participation process were incorporated into ProgRess II.

When it adopted ProgRess on 29 February 2012, the German government decided that it will report every four years on the development of resource efficiency in Germany, assess progress and update the Resource Efficiency Programme accordingly. On 8 March 2012, the Bundestag passed a resolution to support the work on ProgRess and requested a report every four years. On 7 July 2016, the Bundestag passed a resolution supporting the work on ProgRess II and with it renewed its request of the German government.

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4. Outlook

The adoption of the German Resource Efficiency Programme in 2012 marked the start of a process to continuously increase resource efficiency in Germany and create a long-term guiding framework for actors working in this field. This is important as implementing the measures contained in the programme will require a high level of initiative from many people and close cooperation between policy makers, industry, science and civil society. It will also require public commitment. A very encouraging development is that the programme has already significantly contributed to the stronger focus on resource utilisation in environmental policy discourse and inspired numerous initiatives in this area. In light of this positive outcome, the German government will in future continue to submit a report every four years on the development of resource efficiency in Germany and update the programme accordingly.

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Last update: 04.11.2016