Germany country profile - SDGs and the environment

Briefing Published 02 Dec 2020 Last modified 02 Dec 2020
Photo: © Photo by Antoine Petitteville on Unsplash
Germany focuses on promoting responsible supply chains (SDG 12), optimum social and environmental standards (SDG 3), climate change mitigation and adaptation (SDG 13) and the conservation of natural resources (SDG 15) (Federal Republic of Germany, 2016). Life below water (SDG 14) is another priority area for the country.

In 2016, the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development launched a plan of action for marine conservation and sustainable fisheries, together with an allocation of over EUR 180 million. The new initiatives are a further step in the Ministry's implementation of its 10-point Plan of Action for Marine Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries. Based on the need to implement the 2030 Agenda, especially SDG 14 (life below water), Germany launched a federal research and development funding programme, MAREN, where the ‘N’ stands for sustainability (Nachhaltigkeit) (Federal Republic of Germany, 2016).

Germany's action towards SDGs with an environmental dimension focuses primarily on SDGs 3, 12, 13, 14 and 15.  

In Germany, stakeholders and citizens have played an important role in planning and progressing towards SDGs with an environmental dimension. Germany’s National Sustainable Development Strategy (GSDS) emphasises that a broad societal consensus on the SDGs is a precondition for achieving them. The varied and numerous activities of the ‘Fridays for Future’ initiatives in Germany have increased the pressure on the government to be more active on environmental protection issues. The example of the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment shows that stakeholders play an important role in Germany’s efforts to find sustainable answers to structural change questions. In June 2018, the Commission was convened by the federal government to develop a social consensus around structural changes to energy and climate policy in Germany. The Commission comprised members from industry and the economy, science, environmental associations and unions as well as representatives of the lignite mining regions. In January 2019, the Commission presented its final report which includes recommendations for measures to promote the social and structural development of lignite mining regions. The federal government has stated that it intends to implement the Commission's results.

The country experienced several barriers to action on SDGs with an environmental dimension, including the challenge of ensuring policy coherence. This requires the coherent, coordinated deployment of all policy instruments to advance the SDGs. Furthermore, cooperation between the federal government and theLänderis challenging. The GermanLänderplay a crucial role in SDG action as they have legislative and administrative powers in vital areas of sustainable development (Federal Republic of Germany, 2016). Even though regularly collected representative data on environmental awareness in Germany shows a high level of awareness of issues relevant to sustainable development, only around 10 % of people in the country were aware of the SDGs in 2018. Because the population’s support is vital for making environmental SDGs a success, the German federal government initiated a campaign to make them better known.

Germany submitted a VNR to the UN in 2016.

The most important enabling factor for implementing the SDGs in Germany is the institutional architecture for the G National Sustainable Development Strategy (GSDS) and the fact that the primary responsibility for the GSDS lies with the federal chancellery. The GSDS outlines how the guiding principle of sustainability is to be implemented in the federal government’s current and future work. The Committee of State Secretaries on Sustainable Development steers progress on the GSDS and oversees its revision (Thomson, 2017). The work and interaction of the State Secretaries’ Committee on Sustainable Development (StA NHK), the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development (PBnE) and the Sustainable Development Council (RNE) have proven to be effective and will be continued. The aim of the StA NHK is to focus cooperation between the ministries’ various policy areas on common sustainable development through implementation of the GSDS and the SDGs. The PBnE plays an important role at the interface between society and politics. The RNE has a dual function: it is a stakeholder in the social dialogue on sustainability and an advisor to the federal government.

In 2018, the federal chancellery initiated a process to revise the GSDS and align it with the 2030 Agenda. The process involved all ministries, the parliament, the federal state, authorities at the regional and local level, civil society, the private sector and academia (Federal Republic of Germany, 2016). The updated GSDS constitutes a framework for tracking Germany’s progress towards the 2030 Agenda. Tools include biannual monitoring reports by the Federal Statistical Office as well as four-year progress reports on the GSDS (Thomson, 2017). In June 2018, all members of the public, associations and organisations were once again — as was the case when the 2016 German Sustainable Development Strategy was drafted — invited to contribute their own ideas to the process of compiling the updated GSDS. Currently, updating the GSDS also takes place in dialogue with the population. Around 1 500 citizens took part in dialogue conferences nationwide from October 2019 to February 2020.

The GSDS highlights the need to strengthen the involvement of societal stakeholders. In recent years, for example, the Sustainability Forum and the Science Platform Sustainability 2030 were established. The Forum is held annually and helps the federal government to communicate with key stakeholders about the status and future of implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy and the 2030 Agenda. The platform is intended as an interface between academia, society and policy to support implementation of the GSDS and the SDGs with scientific expertise (Federal Republic of Germany, 2016).


DESTATIS, 2016, Sustainable Development in Germany – Indicator Report 2016, Statistisches Bundesamt, Wiesbaden, Germany ( accessed 8 November 2017. 

Federal Republic of Germany, 2016,Deutsche Nachhaltigkeitsstrategie, Die Bundesregierung, Germany ( accessed 24 October 2017. 

Thomson, P., 2017, National Statement by Peter Thomson, Federal Republic of Germany ( ) accessed 11 November 2017.



The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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