A fundamental change to a 'green' model for industry and the economy is urgently needed

Öko-Institut: Annual International Conference on Sustainable Industrial Policy for Europe begins today / An appeal to Brussels

The global economic crisis, the threat of climate change and dwindling natural resources are posing new challenges to European industrial policy. A paradigm shift to a 'green' economy is urgently needed. In fact, there is no alternative. One aspect of such a shift is the conversion of industrial policy into the motor of sustainable production and consumption. This is the assessment put forth today by the Öko-Institut, one of Europe's leading environmental research institutes, at its annual conference in Brussels. The theme of this year's international conference is Sustainable Industrial Policy for Europe.

With more than 150 participants and distinguished speakers from the worlds of politics, industry and academia, Öko-Institut scientists are discussing to what extent the objectives of climate and resource protection can be harmonised with a successful competitive position on world markets. Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, is giving the opening speech.

The crisis as opportunity for the environment
The Öko-Institut views the present economic and financial crisis as an opportunity for the environment. 'It is precisely in such critical times as these that a shift to economic principles that are also sound in environmental and climate terms is not only necessary but actually feasible’, says Christian Hochfeld, Member of the Executive Board of the Öko-Institut. 'Yet in Germany – as actually throughout Europe – we have not even begun to seize this opportunity to convert the economic crisis into a genuine change of course’, he continues. 'For example, we haven't even come up with a good alternative to the used-car scrap premium’, points out the Öko-Institut expert.

What must then be changed?
The view of scientists is that in the medium to long term, industrial policy must endeavour to transform every single industrial sector to CO2-free production and a cyclical use of resources. This is a much more far-reaching concept than the mere promotion of environmental technology. 

'Basically, what we need is a third industrial revolution. The state needs to recover its primacy over policy: our politicians must take seriously their obligation to establish sound and sustainable framework conditions. Without this, the free market is galloping into the void’, states Hochfeld. One negative example are the EU-level target agreements governing automobile CO2 emissions, which are so low as to provide neither effective climate protection nor sustainable, promising market positioning of German and other European automobile manufacturers.

Advantages: reduced costs and competitive edge
Some growing pains are inevitable. But scientists see a number of positive effects:

'An ambitious, sustainable industrial policy must be made to serve as a driving force for innovation, to give forerunner companies a competitive edge’, says the Öko-Institut expert. Other advantages of sustainable economic practice are savings through reduced energy consumption and less dependence on imports of dwindling raw materials.

The United Nations has also called for the necessary economic restructuring in the EU. As part of the initiative for a 'Global Green New Deal', UN organisations and the leadership of the European Environmental Programme are demanding that during the present crisis at least a third of all economic rescue packages be used for economic restructuring. But Brussels is nowhere near this as yet.

An appeal to Brussels
The Öko-Institut demands of Brussels a fundamental rethinking of its industrial and economic policy. This is urgently needed for the Lisbon Strategy revision that is planned for next year and the attendant search for new, functional industrial and political models and guiding principles. 'The Lisbon strategy has made hardly any progress toward promoting a CO2-free, resources conserving economic sector’, says Christian Hochfeld, putting the problem in a nutshell. 'Only a new industrial and political model that consistently prioritises ambitious goals and strategies for long-term de-carbonisation of our industrial sectors and the conservation of natural resources can make a fundamental industrial shift feasible. And only in this way can Europe's competitive position be secured in the long term.' 

Further information about Öko-Institut's Annual International Conference is to be found at: www.oeko.de/conference. As follow-up, Öko-Institut will also publish conference documents, presentations, reports, etc. on this site.

Additional reading about the position of the Öko-Institut on Sustainable Industrial Policy for Europe:

Annual Report 2008-2009

eco@work - October 2009


Christian Hochfeld
Member of the Executive Board
Öko-Institut e.V., Berlin Office
Tel. +49 (0) 30 405 085-385
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To arrange interviews

Christiane Rathmann
Öko-Institut Spokesperson,
Phone +49 (0) 761 452 95-22, Mobile +49 (0)160 5 33 33 55
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