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21 Mar 2024, 14:00
Sören Amelang

'Strategy of enough': Government advisors say sufficiency needed to reach climate targets

Clean Energy Wire

Reaching climate targets will only be possible with a new sufficiency approach, German government advisors have said. "Ecological crises are progressing at an alarming rate worldwide. The majority of elementary planetary stress limits have been exceeded, as have ecological limits in Germany," said the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU), which is made up of seven professors. "Obviously, previous approaches to protecting the environment are not enough." In a paper, the SRU calls for a social debate on sufficiency, which it refers to as a "strategy of enough".

"Sufficiency refers to the aspiration to live more fairly and within ecological limits in line with our values," explained council member Wolfgang Lucht, who is also co-head of research on earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). "It is undeniable that we are living beyond our means in ecological terms," Lucht said. "At the same time, many people do not have sufficient access to energy and resources. So how can our civilisation become more ecological and fairer at the same time? Dealing with such questions is not easy, but in view of the crises, it is part of a necessary learning process." The council pointed to the circular economy as an example of using a sufficiency approach. The circular economy is not just about recycling, but above all aims to make products durable, repairable and reusable, thereby reducing the consumption of raw materials and avoiding waste.

Sufficiency is not just an individual lifestyle issue, but a shared social and political responsibility to develop sustainable economic practices, the council said. In the buildings sector, for example, sufficiency would mean addressing the housing shortage by making better use of the buildings that already exist instead of constructing more. "Strengthening sufficiency requires political and economic framework conditions that promote environmentally friendly social practice - instead of making it more difficult, as is often the case." Council member Claudia Kemfert, who also heads the energy, transport and environment department at the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW), added: "The polarised debate between 'green growth' and 'post-growth' is getting us nowhere. One thing is clear: sectors that are harmful to the environment and the climate must not be allowed to continue to grow. There has been a consensus for years that welfare is more than gross domestic product. However, this is still not reflected enough in practice."

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