The primary goal of the project is to give concrete form to the concept of sustainable development for Germany. Quality and action goals are formulated for selected indicators offering a starting point for developing and analysing lines of action at national level and for activity fields (e.g. construction and housing, mobility, agriculture and nutrition). In addition, criteria are formulated for setting priorities for future research and technology policy oriented towards the concept of sustainability.
Besides integrated consideration of the ecological, economic, social and institutional dimension of sustainability, a core conceptual element of the project is analysing and evaluating the various potentials for enhancing efficiency and consistency through technological and social innovations as a means of achieving sustainability goals. This analysis will include assessment of impacts and study of conditions of implementation of such innovation.
The project is broken down into three levels of analysis, which are treated in close interrelationship.
- The national level
The starting point here is a set of sustainability rules developed in the course of a preceding study, which are based on the postulate of global justice overlaying the various dimensions of sustainability. Suitable indicators are selected for operationalising these rules, and quality and action goals are formulated for the indicators. In addition, a problem-oriented approach is used which takes into account relevant problem areas and accordingly acts as a "filter" reducing the complexity of the analysis.
The goal of the work is to create a reference level for the analyses relating to activity fields and regions, and also to integrate these analyses.
- The level of activity fields and regional analysis
The purpose of the activity fields structure is to cover and analyse the important economic and social activities. Initially, the objective in considering the individual activity fields is to identify and analyse existing sustainability deficits using the indicators identified at national level, supplemented by indicators specific to the activity field. Subsequently, activity field-specific goals will be formulated, taking into account the goals proposed for the national level.
Against this background, the specific potentials for efficiency, consistency and sufficiency are evaluated and various options for measures and instruments are investigated in terms of their effectiveness for reaching the goals and the conditions for implementation. Ultimately, this will yield activity field-specific substrategies which are analysed for their interaction with other activity fields and integrated into an overall strategy, again at national level.
Moreover, it is intended to carry out exemplary investigations into specific aspects (opportunities, limits, requirements, conflicts of use etc.) of implementing the integrative concept for sustainable development at regional level.
- The cross-sectoral level
One task here is to develop a consistent set of data for Germany. The basis for this is the activity field approach, which is used to develop a concept which enables coverage and analysis of the relevant economic and social activities and their relationship with technological factors and developments. Based on this data set, the interrelationships between technological and socio-economic variables, existing sustainability deficits, relationships with identified sustainability goals and the effects of specific strategies on these will be analysed.
For this purpose data from the environmental national accounts and the input-output tables in the national statistics are used. Finally, various lines of action and scenarios etc. will be analysed and evaluated using an environmental economic simulation model. Fine-tuning this and other models used, adapting them for the specific project goals, making them user-friendly, managing the wide variety of data and graphic presentation of the study results are other tasks.
Another cross-sectoral task is estimating the potential of existing and new key technologies for reaching the goals of sustainable development in the activity fields, and analysing the consequences of their use and implementation conditions. In-depth consideration is given specifically to energy technologies, biotechnologies and genetic engineering (life sciences), information and communication technologies, microtechnologies and nanotechnologies and new materials. Discussion processes in the form of panels of scientific and technological experts and social actors for the specific activity fields will play an important role here.