SINGLE COUNTRY PROFILE

Basic Information
Year of approval of the SD strategy and updates

The German Sustainable Development Strategy (GSDS) was adopted by the German Government in 2002. Since 2004 the Strategy has been updated every four years, with progress reports from the German Government published in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Since 2015, the German Government’s sustainability policy has been based onthe 2030 Agendawith its 17 SDGs. The German Government overhauled the GSDS in the light of the 2030 Agenda, adopting a new edition on 11 January 2017. This was itself updated on 7 November 2018.The latest update began in October 2019 and was approved by cabinet on 11 March 2021.

The GSDS has been maintained over five changes of government, documenting the broad, constant political consensus in Germany regarding the importance of sustainable development.

Type of SD strategy

The GSDS is the essential framework for the national implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Accompanied by a very broad participatory consultation process, the GSDS has been carefully reviewed in 2015/2016 in all its essential elements. It has been structured along the 17 SDG- including the targets and indicators. The 2021 update provides the basis for the reinforced sustainability policy that is required for the Decade of Action (2020–30) called for by the UN Secretary-General. The updated Strategy emphasizes the need to set high ambitions when Sustainable Development is the guiding principle behind the policies of the German Government. As a goal and yardstick of governmental action at nation, European and international levels, it has to be observed when enacting measures in all policy fields. The planetary boundaries of our Earth together with the objective of a dignified life for all form the ultimate constraints of political decisions.

The ambitious update of the GSDS in 2021 adopted by the Federal Government is an important step for German sustainable development policy, in particularly as it clearly defines priority spheres of action in six areas of transformation. These areas are linked to a number of the 2030 Agenda goals, and emphasise how change in one affects the others:

(1) The human well-being and capabilities; social justice transformation area links SDGs 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10.

(2) The energy transition and climate action transformation area (SDGs 7 and 13) demands an integrated approach based on protecting the climate.

3) A further area of transformation, the circular economy (SDGs 8, 9 and 12), responds to the need to decouplegrowth from resource consumption. Consumption and production must remain within the boundaries of our planet.

(4) Construction and buildings, as well as the transport sector,are addressed as part of the sustainable building and mobility transition transformation area. It links with SDGs 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13.

(5) An holistic perspective is required to achieve progress in the sustainable agricultural and food systems transformation area, which ties into SDGs 2, 3, 12 and 15.

6) A pollutant-free environment provides the basis for health and well-being, including both physical and mental health. In addition to all of the environment-related SDGs (6, 13, 14 and 15), this area also affects some of the social goals (SDGs 3 and 11), and impacts directly on the economic ones, especially SDG 8.

In order to describe further steps necessary for sustainable development, the federal government has published a perspective paper entitled “Achieving Transformation - Perspectives for German Sustainability Policy”. It looks in particular at the challenges for sustainability policy in the coming legislative period. Federal elections were held on September 26, 2021.

Lead ministry/institution in the SD strategy process
Link to the SD strategy document

The updated GSDS has been adopted by the Cabinet in March 2021 Summary in six UN Languages

Peer Reviews 2018, 2013 and 2009 (documents in German and English)

Indicator Reports by the German National Institute for Statistics

Further information about the SD strategy process

No information available. 

Agenda 2030 Implementation

The GSDS forms an essential framework for the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It is not, however, the only focus of the German Government’s implementation activity; the Government also contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with other measures that are not listed in the Strategy.

Leading Ministry and respective unit

Federal Chancellery, Division 323 (Sustainable Development)

Other ministries involved

All ministries are closely involved.

Main contact point for the implementation process

Dr. Stefan Bauernfeind, stefan.bauernfeind@bk.bund.de

Links to main websites/documents on national implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs

Please refer to links above.

Voluntary National Reviews

Germany submitted a VNR in 2016 and in 2021.

Vertical Integration

As the GSDS is the strategy of the national government only, the GSDS is not binding for the federal states. Nevertheless, the cooperation between the national level and the federal states for GSDS implementation has been significantly increased. The federal states are involved in the definition process of concrete measures based on the GSDS. They participated in the consultation process to the Progress Reports or updated Strategies 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2021.

The Länder play a crucial role in the implementation of the German sustainability targets and the 2030 Agenda. In Germany’s federal structure, the powers to enact and enforce legislation on important areas of sustainable development lie with them. Land sustainable development strategies.

Eleven Länder (out of sixteen) have already drawn up or are currently working on their own sustainable development strategies. The short Länder profiles on the German Government’s website (www.nationale-nachhaltigkeitsstrategie.de) provide an overview of the Länder sustainability activities.

Federation-Länder Exchange on Sustainable Development: Meeting twice a year, the Federation-Länder Exchange on Sustainable Development was established as a format for regular exchange on current sustainability-related developments at both federal and Land level. Meetings are prepared and led by the Federal Chancellery together with the Land holding the chair of the Conference of Minister-Presidents.

The configuration of the sustainability processes, tools and content differs greatly among the Länder. The German Government would therefore welcome it if all Länder were to develop sustainable development strategies and align them more closely to the GSDS. At the same time, the Länder should be able to set their own priorities in the interests of federalism. The joint implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which spans all policy areas, and of the German Sustainable Development Strategy requires tools for the necessary policy coherence. In their resolution of 15 November 2018, the Head of the Federal Chancellery and the Heads of the State and Senate Chancelleries of the Länder stressed the need for ambitious joint activities to implement the Global Sustainable Development Goals, the targets of the German Sustainable Development Strategy and the strategies of the Länder.

Based on a report on the status of Federation-Länder cooperation, the Head of the Federal Chancellery and the Heads of the State and Senate Chancelleries of the Länder called for a set of joint indicators. The indicators of the German Sustainable Development Strategy set out in the report, for which data are also available in the Länder, are to serve as the basis for a provisional set of joint indicators of the Federal Government and Länder. These indicators are to be included as far as possible wherever this makes sense in the sustainable development strategies of the Länder in the light of their individual approaches and methods.

In addition, the Head of the Federal Chancellery and the Heads of the State and Senate Chancelleries asked the Federal-Länder Exchange on Sustainable Development and the Federal and Länder statistical offices to continue working on a set of joint indicators. This work is taking place in a working group of the statistical offices led by the Land Statistical Office of Baden-Württemberg and the Statistical Office for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein (Statistikamt Nord), which regularly reports to the Federal-Länder Exchange on Sustainable Development.

On 6 June 2019, the chancellor Mrs. Merkel and the prime ministers of the federal states have adopted a joint declaration (Bund-Länder Declaration) to further intensify cooperation. Sustainable Development is being described as a joint responsibility and both levels want to orient their policies towards the principles of sustainable development which have been introduced in the GSDS update in 2018 and 2021. Furthermore, they envisage a collaborative project (“joint effort for Sustainable Development”) with the aim to raise the profile of already existing activities for sustainable development, strengthen them and to encourage further actions.

EU linkages

The Federal Government has repeatedly campaigned for a systematic sustainability policy approach at EU level. Therefore, the Federal Government welcomes the Council Conclusion “A Comprehensive concept to accelerate the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - Better Reconstruction after the COVID-19 Crisis”, which the Council adopted on its 3805th session of June 22, 2021. In order to implement the 2030 Agenda at EU level, this Council Conclusion is an important guideline. It reaffirms that the EU and its Member States remain firmly committed to the UN Decade of Action to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, and acknowledges that further progress towards an integrated, strategic, ambitious and comprehensive EU approach to the implementation of the SDGs is needed.

Against this background, the Council Conclusion refers to the plan called “Delivering on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – a comprehensive approach” which was presented by the Commission in November 2020. This document explains how the European Commission is taking forward its commitment to sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs through its internal and external action policies (e.g. the European Green Deal), while also monitoring progress at Member State and European Union levels.

The necessity to have such a Council Conclusion has also been formerly requested by the Council of the European Union, outlining timelines, objectives and concrete measures to reflect the 2030 Agenda in all relevant EU internal and external policies, considering the global impacts of the EU’s domestic actions.

The Federal Countries (Bundesländer) called for a comprehensive implementation framework, too. The Federal Council (legislative body that represents the Bundesländer) has adopted a resolution on EU policy for sustainable development already in 2017.

As EU action plays an important role in many of the relevant policy areas (agricultural and environmental policy, development cooperation and foreign trade), the European comprehensive concept is crucial to ensure that Europe makes an effective contribution to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The latter is also laid down as an objective in the Treaty on European Union (Art. 3 par. 3 second sentence). The Federal Government is of the view that activities at the EU level and activities in the Member States should be complementary and mutually reinforcing.

With the European Green Deal, the Commission has put forward a new European model for the future in which, by 2050, Europe is to become a climate-neutral, resource-conserving continent with a fair and prosperous society as well as a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy.

The Federal Government took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1st July to 31 December 2020. In its Presidency Programme, Germany determined the 2030 Agenda to be one of the guiding principles of its presidency. The aforementioned presentation of the Commission’s plan in November 2020 meant that the implementation of the 2030 agenda was advanced during the German presidency. Moreover, the presidency was structured along sustainable lines and was used to advance dossiers that make a difference to sustainable development. In connection with the European Green Deal, these included the Climate Law, the Biodiversity and Forests Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, and in the food sector the Farm-to-Fork Strategy, as well as initiatives concerning the digital transformation and sustainability.

Horizontal Integration

Since 2000, the State Secretaries' Committee on Sustainable Development exists as a high-ranking steering, coordinating and monitoring body for sustainable development. It decides about the strategy and its further development (subject to later formal approval of the cabinet), and keeps a close eye on its implementation. The Committee is composed of state secretaries (representatives of the minister, top level of civil servants) from all ministries. It is chaired by the Head of the Federal Chancellery, who is the main leader in the national SD process.

In Germany, the responsibility for national SD policies does not lie with one of the ministries but with the Chancellery itself. This is considered a key success factor for SD in Germany. The Chancellery does not only have a coordination role, but is also steering the process and providing important inputs to the relevant ministries. It shows the special importance that the federal government attaches to SD policies and is based on the fact that sustainable development is a cross-cutting subject. A permanent inter-ministerial working-group for sustainable development (chaired also by the Chancellery) prepares for the meetings of the State Secretaries´ Committee.

The State Secretaries’ Committee on Sustainable Development meets about four times a year. The Committee works on the basis of a working program comprising the most relevant topics for sustainable development.

Depending on the topic, external experts may also be invited to attend. The chairs of the Sustainable Development Council and the Parliamentary Advisory Council are also present.

The working group on Sustainable Development, which is led by the Federal Chancellery, is also responsible for supporting the implementation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy, and for its continuing evolution.

Additionally, in each legislative period each ministry reports on progress on putting the Strategy into effect. (available only in German).

A major reform in order to strengthen the implementation of the strategy in daily policy was the introduction of SD as a criterion for the impact assessment for new laws or regulations. In May 2009, SD was included permanently in the standing orders of the federal government (”Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien”, GGO). A guideline published by the Department for Internal Affairs in June 2009 advises to use the indicators and the then-management rules (now: principles) of the strategy for this SD impact assessment. In March 2018, an online tool was introduced to support a more systematic assessment of possible effects on sustainable development. The Parliamentary Advisory Council on SD of the German Parliament evaluates and comments the procedural quality of the impact assessment as it is documented in the drafts of new laws or regulations delivered to the German Parliament.

As part of the 2018 GSDS, it was decided to further strengthen policy coherence: Coordinators for Sustainable Development have been appointed in each ministry, in most cases at Director-General level. They are central contact persons for all issues relating to Sustainable Development and will be involved in the preparation of the Sustainable Development Impact assessments.

Review

In the reviews and updates of the Strategy, the German Government reported progress and remaining challenges.

In 2004, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2018 and 2021 Progress Reports and Updates were adopted by the Cabinet. All of them confirmed that SD remains a guiding principle for the concrete political activities of the federal government. The reports explain the governmental organisation in SD politics in detail and strengthen the management of SD in German policy making.

The sustainability management concept of the strategy comprises the following elements:

·      principles for sustainable development. The principles for sustainable development summarise the guiding principles of SD.

·      There are 75 indicators (formerly 66) with associated targets which allow for an objective check of the status of development.

·      Monitoring. Every four years a Progress Report (or updated strategy) presents in detail the status of SD in Germany. The Progress Reports or updated strategies are complemented by an indicator report, independently prepared by the Federal Statistical Office every two years.

To improve SD management, the State Secretaries’ Committee has gradually been strengthened over the past years.

International Peer Reviews

In 2009, 2013 and 2018 international experts  brought their experiences to bear on the opportunities and challenges for Germany's SD policies in an international context. In 2009 and again in 2013, the German Federal Government mandated Björn Stigson, the (former) President of the World Business Council for SD, and a group of peers to conduct a Peer Review of Germany's SD policies. The first Peer Review Report, organised by the Council for Sustainable Development on behalf of the government, was handed over to Chancellor Angela Merkel on November 23, 2009, the second Peer Review Report on September 25, 2013. A third Peer review has been published and handed over to the Chancellor on 4 June 2018. The group of experts was this time chaired by Helen Clark, former Administrator of UNDP.

All three reports acknowledged Germany´s potential key position to spearhead the transition to a more sustainable development and came up with a set of clear recommendations addressing politics, the parliament, the business community and civil society. The German Council for Sustainable Development facilitated all three reviewing processes.

Programme of Sustainability Measures

With the Programme of Sustainability Measures the German Government has, since 2010, set specific targets to ensure that its own administration acts sustainably. The programme was updated in 2021. The program addresses all agencies and institutions of the federal administration. Progress with the implementation of those measures is recorded annually and published in a monitoring report. Ten areas are addressed.

A particular challenge is to achieve the goal of organizing the federal administration in a climate-neutral manner by 2030. A number of measures contribute to this, including, for example, the building sector, mobility and events. Sustainability in these areas is much more than climate neutrality. Sustainable procurement is also to be strengthened. As a major client, the public administration can influence the range of products and services through the demand for sustainable services.

Indicators

As a management framework, the Strategy now contains 75 indicators, and targets in 41 areas. Together, they show where Germany stands on sustainable development, and provide the basis for managing the Strategy. The indicators were brought into line with the 17 SDGs and given a more international outlook when the new version of the Sustainable Development Strategy was published at the start of 2017. Thirteen additional topic areas and 30 indicators were newly added. They represent issues of particular relevance to Germany when implementing the 2030 Agenda. Each SDG is assigned at least one indicator.

Key indicators

The selected indicators should be regarded as key indicators: They denote a particularly important topic or outstanding activity connected with an SDG. Some of them also serve as gateways to more comprehensive indicator systems and statistics that already exist. Examples here include the GSDS indicators for poverty and inequality, biodiversity, and crime statistics. This further information frequently provides an insight into the extent to which different social groups are affected, which economic sectors contribute to developments or how conditions are spread geographically across Germany. For each SDG, at least one indicator-backed political target is listed which identifies relevant need for action in the area in question, although it does not aim to describe that action in detail.

Importance of the target and indicator system:

The target and indicator system is an important part of the Strategy’s management system. However, it is not the only instrument for assessing the Strategy and its implementation. On the one hand, not all areas that are relevant for sustainable development can be shown, and on the other, not all measures can be taken into account.

Feedback and assessments of the Council for Sustainable Development, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development and other social stakeholders are also relevant when measuring the success of the German Sustainable Development Strategy. The discussions are frequently focused on the indicators. However, these are just a means to an end. The targets determining the level of ambition of sustainable development and the associated measures set out in the Strategy are ultimately important for the political debate. The number of sustainability indicators in the Strategy is deliberately limited in order to facilitate an overview of the state of sustainable development achieved with as little data as possible and thereby create a sustainability policy compass that remains manageable. The following indicators have been added to the GSDS in 2021:

• Global pandemic prevention (indicator 3.3)

• Women in management positions in the federal civil service (indicator 5.1.c)

• Proportion of fathers receiving parental allowance (indicator 5.1.d)

• Rollout of broadband (indicator 9.1.b)

• Cultural heritage (improving access to cultural heritage) (indicator 11.4)

• Soil protection world-wide (indicator 15.3.b)

Participation

Since 2002, several stakeholder groups, e.g. social partners, NGOs, local communities, the science community etc., were involved in the development of the GSDS. The methods used for this purpose ranged from traditional consultation processes or conferences to the possibility of delivering opinions on drafts or internet chat sessions with ministers and state secretaries.

For the 2021 update, a series of dialogue events began as early as in October 2019 with a conference in Berlin, followed up by regional conferences that took place up to February 2020 in Stuttgart, Norderstedt and Bonn, which attracted some 1400 citizens. In the first phase, around 400 verbal and written contributions were received both during and after these events. The draft Strategy update was published on 1 October 2020. On 15 October 2020, the German Government held a hearing with a broad range of stakeholders – the 2020 Sustainability Forum. By the end of October, some 360 institutions, associations, organisations and individuals had submitted responses to the draft. Responses that were cleared for publication appread on the www.dialog-nachhaltigkeit.de website.  

The Scientific Platform for Sustainability 2030 was launched in 2017 as hub for science, society and policy. It provides scientific expertise to support the implementation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy and the 2030 Agenda.

Since 2004, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development of the German Parliament has been supporting the SD process in Germany. The Council submits proposals for updating the GSDS and provides recommendations on individual subjects relating to SD. The Council had contributed an own guest chapter to the Progress Reports of 2008 and 2012 and in the new GSDS 2016. The Council comprises 17 Members of the Parliament from all parliamentary parties who can incorporate the results of the work of the Council into the work of the parliamentary parties and special committees. Since 2009, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development scrutinizes the results of sustainability impact assessments of legislation prepared by the government in the reasonings of laws and regulations. Its conclusions are used by the relevant lead committees in their own reviews of the laws.

The first plenary sustainability week of the German Parliament (which was initiated by the Parliamentary Advisory Council) was held in September 2019.

The German Council for Sustainable Development was established by the German Government in April 2001. Its members are appointed by the Chancellor. It is composed of 15 members from various social groups, the business sector as well as from the science and research community. Its mission is to advise the German government on all matters relating to SD and to contribute to the further development of the GSDS. In addition, the Council is an important stakeholder in the public dialogue on SD.

The Council organizes Annual Conferences for Sustainable Development with more than 1000 participants and with so far in each year key notes by the Chancellor. The Conference offers national and international guests the opportunity to hear and discuss about the latest SD news and issues.

In 2012, the Council has started its call for a German Sustainability Action Day respectively Action Week. All actors - regardless whether from the private, public, religious, business or academic sector - are invited to present their activities on SD and share their experience. In close cooperation with France and Austria, the European Sustainable Development Week (ESDW) was initiated and first started in 2015 with more than 4000 activities in 29 European countries. In 2021, there were 5440 initiatives in 28 countries.

A strengthened collaboration between the Council for SD, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on SD and the State Secretaries´ Committee for SD is ongoing. Each of the three institutions invites representatives of the other two to its regular meetings.

Member of the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils (EEAC).

Subnational Activities

Within the federal structure of the Federal Republic of Germany, legislative and administrative authority over key aspects of sustainable development rests with the individual Länder. The Länder therefore play a decisive role in the implementation of the GSDS and the 2030 Agenda.

Meeting twice a year, the Federation-Länder Exchange on Sustainable Development(BLE NE) was established as aformat for regular exchange on current sustainability-relatedissues at both federal and Land level. Meetings areprepared and led by the Land currently holding the chairof the Conference of Minister-Presidents, together withthe Federal Chancellery. In 2018, a set of common indicatorsfor the Federal Government and the Länder was determinedon the basis of the indicators in the Sustainable DevelopmentStrategy.The political will to adopt a shared approach is also expressedin the declaration entitled “Working together to promote sustainable development – assuming responsibility for a bright future in Germany, Europe and around the world”that was made by the Federal Chancellor andthe heads of government of the Länder on 6 June 2019. Inthe declaration, the Länder announced that they wouldalign their political activities with the principles of sustainabledevelopment set out in the Sustainable DevelopmentStrategy as a “common compass”. The Federal Governmentand the Länder have further stated that they regard sustainabledevelopment as a joint effort.

In a multi-level federal system, each level of government bears a joint responsibility for achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda in and with Germany. The development and implementation of integrated local government sustainability strategiesare an important instrument of which even greater use should be made in the future. To highlight the local authorities’ contribution to the 2030 Agenda, municipal umbrella organisations cooperated with other stakeholders to develop SDG indicators for local authorities (www.sdg-portal.de).

Where possible, the Federal Government relies on voluntary approaches and positive incentives. Progress on the path towards sustainable development all across society can only be achieved if everyone does their bit in line with their interests, opportunities, talents and skills. Education, which equips future generations with the capabilities and skills they need in all spheres for sustainable action, plays a decisive role. The Federal Government expects the so called “Joint Effort for Sustainability”, currently being set up by the Council for Sustainable Development and due to be launched in spring 2022, to play a major role. The Joint Effort for Sustainability is designed to highlight existing commitment to sustainable development, nurture further commitment, win over new actors and encourage the various stakeholders to engage in new cooperation. It can trigger new social momentum for sustainable development.