Country profile - Drivers and impacts (Germany)
Germany – highly industrialised, densely populated and poor in natural resources – regards itself as being confronted in particular by challenges in working out how to use resources sustainably (natural resources: surface area, materials, energy and water) and how to ensure sustainable mobility.
Day-to-day growth in the settlement and transport area
The day-to-day growth in the settlement and transport area is a measure of the negative impact on areas that are close to nature and on natural soil functions due to land sealing and urban sprawl. In addition, it also points at a highly aggregated level to a deviation from sustainable living, consumption and mobility patterns.
In 2007, the settlement and transport area occupied 13.1 % of the land area of Germany. Of this, 8.1 % accounted for the settlement area and 5.0 % for the transport area. Any growth was achieved largely at the expense of areas used for agriculture. Approximately 46 % of the settlement and transport area of Germany is sealed over. This represents around 6 % of the federal territory. Although day-to-day growth in this area has fallen from 129 ha to 113 ha in the period 2004-2007 compared with the period 1997-2000 as a result of a decline in investment in the construction sector caused by economic conditions, it remains at an unacceptably high level.
Raw materials for production and consumption
The extraction, processing and use of a raw material are always accompanied by the consumption of land, materials and energy, transfer of materials and pollutant emissions. The efficient handling of finite raw materials and their replacement by renewable raw materials, as well as the greater use of secondary raw materials from recycling, are thus central elements in a highly industrialised Germany.
On the whole, the input of materials into the German economy fell between 1994 and 2006. The extraction of materials (without gases and without water), including materials imported from abroad, decreased by 315 million tonnes (around 8 %) from 4 139 million tonnes to around 3 824 million tonnes. The reduction is essentially the result of a significant fall in the excavated quantities from lignite mining resulting from less lignite extraction in the new Länder. This decrease also led to the extraction of non-utilised materials falling by about 10 % between 1994 and 2006.
It also needs to be made clear at this point that a large proportion of the raw materials that are used in Germany are sourced abroad.
The decline in the domestic extraction of recycled raw materials is offset by a dynamic increase in imports of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products. Imports of materials in 2006 were thus 29.4 % higher than in 1994. A significant factor for this increase was above all the rise in energy imports (mainly mineral oil and natural gas), which – when expressed in units of weight – account for more than half of the quantities used. In 2006, 99 % of the mineral ores used in Germany also came from abroad. There was a corresponding increase in non-utilised attendant materials and in environmental pollution, possibly associated with the supply, in the supplying countries, for example negative impacts on landscapes, ecosystems, soils, watercourses and the air. Hardly any data are available in respect of the non-utilised quantities of material arising in overseas countries that can be attributed to German imports.
Despite the decrease in lead, particulates, nitrogen oxides and ozone pollution in particular, the air pollutants caused by traffic continue to endanger the environment and human health to a considerable degree. The proportion of climate-relevant CO2 emissions accounted for by traffic now represents one fifth of total CO2 emissions in Germany. Changes in land use in the form of land utilisation and landscape fragmentation by traffic route construction and the associated destruction and fragmentation of habitats are currently a major cause of the continuing loss of biological diversity. The acidification and eutrophication of ecosystems as well as pollution by ground-level ozone are serious environmental problems all over Europe. In Germany, road traffic in particular contributes to this to a significant extent. Traffic noise is also one of the greatest environmental problems in our densely populated and congested country. Noise substantially restricts the quality of life of many people, and high noise pollution presents an additional risk to health.
In order to achieve the aims of environmental protection, measures are required on three levels. First, it should be possible to satisfy mobility needs with the least possible traffic. Second, traffic should be transferred as far as possible to environmentally friendly modes of transport. Third, all modes of transport should be operated with the cleanest possible technology and environmentally sound behaviour.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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