Sustainability and climate protection need more target orientation

A post by:     Michael Kundel
Last updated: 2023-10-17

Climate protection and sustainability have been among the most important objectives of politics and business for several years. Nevertheless, the overall successes are still modest. One reason for this is the lack of target orientation. For more climate protection, clear priorities must be set and pursued.

The biggest challenge for mankind

For me, it is first important to make one thing clear: Climate change is real - and it is the greatest current challenge facing humanity. The goal of protecting the climate is therefore of the utmost importance. This also applies to us at RENOLIT. For years, we have been pursuing a clear program for more climate protection and circular economy as well as for the development of non-fossil raw materials. Nevertheless, I am very concerned about the current path towards more climate protection taken by politics and society. Because we are endangering our prosperity - and yet we are not managing to protect the climate sufficiently.

Symbolism and actionism do not help us

Climate protection and sustainability are complex tasks that must be viewed holistically. Tackling them requires a careful and thoughtful approach. At present, however, we all too often tend to focus on symbolic measures and fall into an actionism that often aims more at visibility and ideology than at substantial effects. A recurring pattern is a fixation on particularly high-visibility issues such as home heating systems, increasingly stringent regulation and reporting requirements for industry, and the blocking of infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, areas where significant progress could be made, such as improving the energy efficiency of buildings, are neglected. This will not move us forward and will weaken the all-important acceptance of climate protection measures among the population and the economy.

When Gut Feelings are harmful to Climate Protection

What I consider most to be problematic is that some discussions seem to follow gut instinct. This became particularly clear in the discussion about shrink-wrapped cucumbers. The recognized sustainability consultancy Denkstatt has determined that the benefits of the packaging clearly outweigh the waste that would otherwise be generated by unpackaged goods. Plastic film was nevertheless branded in the public perception as harmful to the climate and the environment, although even some environmental associations openly warned that unpackaged cucumbers would have a greater impact on the climate due to better refrigerated transport and more spoiled goods. This very succinct example shows that pure intuition is a poor advisor.

Renunciation alone does not lead to success

Often, the debate is also narrowed in a direction that puts renunciation as an instrument of climate protection first. My colleague Thomas Sampers has just described the life-saving properties of polymers in medicine in a blog post. That made it very clear to me once again that we must not risk a regression in civilization. But those who nevertheless call for this should ask themselves how such a regression is to be democratically organized in our society. Because even today, acceptance for climate protection is visibly crumbling among the population. Pure renunciation or even degrowth will therefore not lead to success if this is accompanied by significant losses in prosperity.

We need clear goals and priorities

So what are we supposed to do now? How can we protect the climate - and at the same time safeguard prosperity and progress? To do this, we need much clearer priorities than before and the most goal-oriented approach possible.

- Restrictions and regulation are ultima ratio after all other options have been exhausted.

- All measures must be subjected to a clear cost-benefit calculation, prioritized and regularly evaluated.

- Accompanying and comprehensible communication is necessary.

- Instead of bans, we need strong programs that specifically develop climate-friendly and affordable alternatives for key sectors of industry, energy generation and mobility.

- We need a competition of the best ideas and solutions instead of one-sided commitments to individual technologies. Because it's not the path but the result that counts.

- Bureaucracy must be slimmed down significantly so that innovations can be developed and implemented more quickly.

This is how we succeed in effective climate protection and greater sustainability

Climate protection is not an ideology - it is a complex challenge. We must meet it with the tools that once made our economy strong: Efficiency, innovative spirit and consistency. Only in this way will we succeed in making a real contribution to solving the global climate problem, exporting these innovative technologies and at the same time securing our prosperity.