"Global Markets between Climate Policy and Innovation"
Sustainability Lounge of 24.01.2007
Exekutiv-Direktor of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
Global Head Sustainable Development, Deutsche Bank AG
Die Zeit, 01.02.2007: "Energie für gutes Klima" (Energy for a good climate)
Christiane Grefe on Achim Steiner and the Sustainability Lounge
Frankfurter Rundschau, 26.01.2007: "Öko gehört zum Firmen-Image" (Eco is part of the company image)
Vera Gaserow on the Sustainability Lounge
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27.01.2007: "Pragmatischer Klimaschützer"
(Pragmatic environmental activists)
Konrad Mrosek on Achim Steiner
Energy efficiency – more than just a buzzword?
Federal Environment Minister Mr Gabriel introduced the panel discussion with an emphatic plea in favour of more energy efficiency. There was also great savings potential in Germany at the moment, but these savings did not necessarily have to lead to a reduction in living standards. One problem was, however, that there were only minor projects in the field of energy efficiency, and more effective measures were difficult to implement. The fact that climate protection and energy efficiency were being discussed more intensely was attributable to the new sort of pressure which – according to Sigmar Gabriel – was mainly due to the growing population in newly industrialising countries: soon more than four billion people would be living in industrialised countries, and this would lead to a gigantic demand for energy, particularly in the traffic sector.
Driving power in the direction of sustainability: market or state?
When he was asked whether the pressure for more climate protection
came more from the market and the citizens, and less from the political sector,
Sigmar Gabriel conceded that pressure from this direction was faster-acting.
He used the example of fine dust to make this clear. Despite the fact that
the use of particle filters in vehicles was technically possible, this had
been delayed for years. The public had had to pay the cost for this through
the health service. A market-economy solution in accordance with the polluter-pays
principle might possibly have acted more quickly.
The director of the environmental programme of the United Nations, Achim Steiner, took up this argument. The market economy, said Mr Steiner, followed certain rules, and the example of environmental policy made it particularly clear that the market was a model that was created by the interaction of preferences. Ethical values were laid down by the state, and this could lead to the creation of completely new markets, as the examples of the Kyoto Protocol and the market for emission certificates showed. Politics could therefore change the direction of market developments.
In reply to the question of whether the economy was beneficial or obstructive in this process, Mr Steiner stressed that he basically saw two groups of companies: those that only used environmental protection and sustainability for their PR, and those that actually seriously changed their core business. Contradictions arose when individual trailblazer companies wanted to move forwards, but trade associations and ministries were in their way.
A glance across the border
By international standards, Germany has lost its trailblazing
role, according to Mr Steiner, and was lagging significantly behind Great
Britain, France and even the US. This was also due to the fact that the various
ministries in these countries – for example ministries for the environment
and for financial affairs - cooperated better than in Germany, in his view.
Hanns Michael Hölz, Global Head of Sustainability in Deutsche Bank AG, agreed with this impression. To ensure that the economy could develop in the direction of sustainability, however, it was necessary to achieve a general political setup corresponding to the social consensus. In the US, by contrast, sustainability was characterised more and more by the market economy. Hölz emphasised that all stakeholders - the government, trade and industry, consumers - were still being too quiet, for fast action was now called for, particularly in the question of climate protection.
At this point, Minister Gabriel stressed the significance of international provisions. Frequently entrepreneurs – for example investment funds – showed great willingness to comply with rules for more sustainability, but only on condition that the same conditions applied at international level. Fear of disadvantages for international competitiveness frequently had an adverse effect on the willingness of companies to act in accordance with principles of sustainability. International rules were also of importance for the balance between states. Such a balance could only be achieved through material support by the countries which so far had obtained their wealth at the expense of others. The most recent example: the illegal storage of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. This example shows the need to assume international responsibility and also to provide financial support. UNEP did not have the resources to achieve further-reaching successes either.
What is driving us towards sustainability?
Education, market developments and catastrophes – according
to Steiner, these are the factors that motivate us to act sustainably. However,
these factors must interact properly if they are to lead to favourable results.
The discussion centred too frequently on the question of which activities
we could afford in economic terms. A multilateral platform was necessary
for successful sustainable development. The example of the destruction of
the ozone layer and of the successful summit in Montreal showed how new standards
could be developed and implemented within a few years.
Mr Hölz acknowledged that this example could generally serve as a model, for globalisation also offered opportunities, since in the field of climate protection it was only possible to be successful with international agreements. A precondition for this, however, was a paradigm change.
Corporate groups have a particular obligation
There was an intense discussion between the guests and the speakers on the possible actions and responsibilities of large corporations, since they are in a position to influence politicians as well as consumers. Mr Gabriel complained about a habit of corporations and trade associations of being in favour of environmental protection and sustainability in public, but at the same time of torpedoing the relevant bills and regulations in the background. He emphatically called on corporations to recognisably offer and market ecologically better products. Mr Steiner agreed, and added that it was very important to reward the conduct of those companies that plausibly geared themselves towards environmental protection targets.
Emission trading in Germany
In reply to a question from the public as to why Germany did not make itself an active pioneer in the question of emission trading, Mr Gabriel replied that Germany must not allow other countries to escape their responsibilities. Excessive savings in Germany would slow down the commitment in other countries. Furthermore, the strong automobile and pharmaceutical industries in Germany would contribute to more discussions. For example, employees and trade unions could be mobilised against environmental policy with the argument that environment requirements were to blame for the poor employment situation in their company. This would lead to fear on the part of the population. Politicians usually counter these accusations merely with factual arguments. However, the discussion about environmental policy required an emotional component. When one's own dismay was noticeable, for example through one's own children, sensibility was aroused. For the discussion on the climate, values like justice and responsibility were of great significance – this became particularly apparent with respect to international relations, with exporting countries also having to assume responsibility.
The G8 summit as an opportunity
In the following, the forthcoming G8 summit was described as
perhaps the first ecological summit in which sustainability and the climate
could be the main focus of attention. The subjects here could be the newly
emerging biomass market, which is still to be regulated, as well as overfishing.
Mr Steiner noted that he had mentioned the G8 summit in an interview with
the German Chancellor Ms Merkel. In his view politics needed neither enlightenment
nor conviction for environment-oriented politics. Mr Steiner then called
on trade and industry to support the government in matters of climate change
and environmental protection, in public and in the background, since an ecological
G8 summit could also have an significant effect on China and India.
The discussion was then continued in small groups over snacks and beverages.
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