EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Germany – Greening the European Economy: responses and initiatives by Member States and social partners

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 17 September 2009

Birgit Kraemer

The economic stimulus packages, which are a comprise by the Christian-Democratic and Social-Democratic government, provide some incentives for energy reduction and climate protection, , but an increase in green jobs is not a specific objective. Whereas the Confederation of German Trade Unions has some years of history in conceptualising ecological industrial restructuring and green job creation, currently, as of May 2009, there are no new major initiatives by neither the trade unions nor the employers’ organisations to promote green jobs.

This mapping and inventory exercise will help to take stock of what the different Member States and social partners are doing to mitigate the effects of climate change and harness the potential of the green economy. It will also help to identify particularly interesting and successful initiatives which can be shared and disseminated as positive practice examples.

Mapping Member State responses, initiatives and tools

Please describe the main actions and policy strategies of your country in the following areas:

1) In the context of the current global recession, has an economic recovery program or strategy been launched by the national government in the last 12 months? If so, what coverage, attention, actions are envisaged with a view to greening the national economy, with a focus on employment, as a way of emerging from the present downturn? If there is a wide range of issues, please focus on the main issues.

The two economic stimulus packages passed in 2008/2009 (Konjunkturpaket I and Konjunkturpaket II) are a compromise by the Christian-democratic and Social-democratic governmental coalition. Economic Stimulus Package II of January 2009 states the intention to stimulate economic growth and also to promote climate protection and energy reduction. Increase in the number of ‘green jobs’ is not mentioned as an explicit objective.

The packages include some measures which are perceived by some organisations as promoting a greening of economy, whereas they are criticized as primarily supporting traditional industries by others. There is no data on the promotion of a greening of economy by the stimulus packages.

The provision of investment funds for the refurbishment of buildings according to energy-saving principles is the most prominent programme line that directly relates to government’s ‘Integrated energy- and climate programme’. The idea of linking energy-saving improvement measures in public and private buildings to job creation was first developed by the trade unions. In 2001 the concept was jointly pushed by the tripartite Alliance for Jobs (DE982286N, DE030204N) and has since been supported by the government’s provision of a public fund which was broadened in scope in 2006 and 2008. Stimulus Package I granted an additional € 3 billion for the years 2009 to 2011. Also, according to Stimulus Package II, a € 10 billion fund for local authorities to invest in the refurbishment of schools, universities and of institutions of further training can be partially used for energy-efficient refurbishment. The package additionally increases the existing fund for private investments in energy-saving measures for buildings by € 750,000 million.

A second measure is the so-called ‘environment premium’ or ‘scrap premium’. The measure is perceived by some organisations as promoting a greening of economy, whereas it is criticized as merely supporting traditional jobs in the automotive sector by others. The concept was first introduced by the German Metalworkers’ Union (Industriegewerkschaft Metall, IG Metall). Stimulus Package II provides € 1.5 billion to pay a bonus of € 2,500 to each individual who scraps a car older than nine years and purchases a new car with lower CO2 emission.

Additionally, Stimulus Package II provides € 500,000 million for research and marketing projects in the field of mobility. The fund is available to various projects, including those that are meant to increase energy efficiency or develop battery-driven trains or electric and hybrid vehicles.

Politics of the governmental coalition and the stimulus packages have been criticized by the Council on Sustainable Development – a body in charge of reviewing governmental policies on sustainability – as being unclear in direction and as being too traditional as to actually further ‘green’ industries and technologies.

2) Have there been any specific ministries or government departments set up to deal with green issues? If so, what is their mandate and remit?

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit, BMU) was founded in 1986. Whereas BMU (currently headed by a Social Democrat) administers the field of renewable energies, the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie, BMWI) (headed by a Christian Social Union member) is in charge of energy policies. Research funds on ‘green’ issues are also granted by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF).

To coordinate the policies of the federal ministries on sustainable development, a so-called ‘green cabinet’ of state secretaries was established at the Federal Chancellery in 2000. According to the Council on Sustainable Development , coordination is still weak.

The Council on Sustainable Development (Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung) was set up by the Federal Government in 2001 to consult the ‘green cabinet’ and the Federal Government on political objectives. The Council is also in charge of developing indicators on reviewing processes and policies and it reviews governmental policies. The 13 council members are academic experts, politicians, company representatives, NGO representatives and a trade union representative appointed by the chancellor (a member of the Mining, Chemicals and Energy Industrial Union, (Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, IGBCE). Employer associations are not members of the body.

3) Have any tripartite social dialogue structures and/or procedures been set up to deal with green issues? If so, what is their aim and how do they operate? If there are a wide range of structures and procedures, please focus on the main ones.

No, a tripartite dialogue structure on green issues does not exist. Typically, consultation processes by BMU include experts, NGOs, trade unions, large companies and employer associations.

4) Have there been any of the following initiatives or actions in your country: Where the answer is yes, please provide a brief account of each one, focusing on the main ones.

  • awareness-raising initiatives

BMU organises a range of awareness-raising initiatives; see for example, a 2009 brochure by BMU on ‘Employment and Environment’ and BMU’s 2008 Green Economy Report (Umweltwirtschaftsbericht).

  • actions targeting specific sectors

According to BMU’s research report, in 2008 BMU granted €150 million to research projects on renewable energy. Most support was granted to wind energy (26.6%) to photovoltaic research (26.3%) and to projects optimising energy systems (18.7%).

  • actions involving green procurement

As of May 2009, Article 26 of EU directive 2004/18/EC on procurement has still not been integrated in German law and a proposed law on modernizing procurement legislation has not been adopted.

On 23 January 2008, a federal administrative directive specified previous directives on the procurement of energy efficient products and services by federal authorities.

  • financial support and stimulus packages to boost eco-innovation

See previous remarks on stimulus packages.

In December 2008 the Fifth Energy Research Programme, which bundles the energy related activities of all ministries, was extended to 31.December 2010 (two-year budget €658.000). About 42.5% of the budget will be spent on efficient energy conversion (BMWI), 35.6% on renewable energies (BMU), the remaining funds will go to nuclear energy and fusion research.

  • support for green start-ups and entrepreneurial schemes

No data available.

  • training programmes to prepare the workforce for the transition to the green economy

Various programmes exist at the level of initial professional training and of further training, at schools of applied sciences and at universities. An overview is provided by a 2007 status report on vocational training and employment, published on behalf of BMU.

  • investment schemes in emerging products and services that could lead to the creation of green jobs in the future

see above

  • any other relevant initiatives or actions

According to BMU, the Renewable Energy Sources Act, which implements Directive 2001/77/EC, is exemplary in furthering the share of renewable energy in the electricity sector. It came into force 1 January 2009.

Mapping social partner responses, initiatives and tools

Please summarise the main unilateral and bipartite initiatives in your country in the following areas:

5) Positioning and stance in relation to the green agenda (eg any position papers)

Trade unions

Linking the objectives of social and ecological sustainability has been part of the policy agenda of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) since 1996. DGB and its affiliates, Hans-Boeckler-Foundation and NGOs pushed for an Alliance for Jobs and Environment from 1999 onwards, which in 2001 led to the setting up of a working group ‘Environment’ by the tripartite Alliance for Jobs (DE000232F).

The DGB and the DGB-affiliated trade unions cooperate in two working groups on energy and on the environment. Policies of sectoral trade unions on environmental issues vary and perceptions of what is considered to be a ‘green’ or ecological agenda differ. However, in both fields, the DGB represents its affiliates before BMU and the public.

According to a September 2008 statement, the DGB is basically in accordance with BMU’s current strategic programme on ecological industrial restructuring and is in support of a ‘New Deal on Environment, Economy and Employment’. However, the confederation stresses the need to further link ecological to social sustainability and to the improvement of living and working conditions.

The trade unions do not comment on the ‘green’ in the government’s two stimulus packages. A DGB spokesperson says more could have been done, yet the confederation appreciates further investments in energy-efficient measures in the refurbishment of buildings. The programme to use energy-efficient refurbishment as an instrument to stabilize and create sustainable jobs was first developed by the Building, Agricultural and Environmental Workers’ Union (Industriegewerkschaft Bau-Agrar-Umwelt, IG BAU) and its affiliates in 1998 and has been promoted by the DGB since then. The German Metalworkers’ Federation (Industriegewerkschaft Metall, IG Metall), which launched the idea of a ‘car scrapping premium’, is in line with the prospective measure of Stimulus Package II and defends the measure against criticism saying it is not ecologically oriented.

DGB criticizes the current climate and energy policy of the governmental coalition as being contradictory and ambivalent (June 2008 statement on the national sustainability strategy; March 2009 statement on energy). According to the DGB, politics and the government’s policy statements (programme on sustainable development, Integrated energy- and climate programme) are often not in line. The confederation (2008) agrees with BMU saying that public investments in sustainable and renewable energy are too low. The organisation sees the risk (2009) that the economic crisis may be used as an argument not to implement urgent tasks of ecological restructuring. According to the DGB, the regulation of the financial market and of shareholder value orientation is fundamental to ecological and social sustainable development. The confederation is critical of attempts by federal ministries or the EU Commission to liberalize environmental regulation.

Employer organisations

The employer organisations do not comment on the ‘green’ in the stimulus packages either.

In 2008, the Federation of German Industries (Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, BDI) rejected the BMU’s draft on ‘ecological industrial restructuring’ saying that the Environment Ministry’s approach was too prescriptive, too focused on ecology, too sceptical of the market forces and that it ignored the reality of establishments being the actors who take investment decisions. According to BDI, the primary objective of ecological industrial policy has to be the strengthening of national competitiveness, whereas climate protection has to be dealt with at a global level.

According to BDI’s 2008 Manifesto on Growth and Employment, a greening of the economy is to be furthered und subsidized under the leading objective of increasing competitiveness. BDI is in support of a further greening of the global economy because of environmental and of economic reasons as it provides new foreign markets for the German industry, which is the European leader in developing green technology and the leading exporter of green technology products. The federation is critical of BMU’s ecological orientation and rejects BMU’s approach to fix principles in an environmental law book. BDI calls on the government to better coordinate the policies of the federal ministries BMWI, BMBF and BMU, to narrow the focus of public funding to core fields of environmentally-oriented technology and to organise funding along the lines of market demands. BDI also calls on the government to launch another export initiative, similar to the one the government has set up in support of energy-efficient technology.

6) Attitudes and approaches of the social partners in relation to the green agenda

In a March 2009 statement, DGB calls for an integrated approach of climate, energy, mobility and industrial policy to push for ecological industrial restructuring.

DGB calls for

A) Innovation of traditional industries:

  • doubling of the productivity/efficiency of energy and materials by 2020;
  • public programmes supporting energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings;
  • research and development of energy efficient vehicles (cars, trains, etc.);
  • technical innovation of the cogeneration of heat and power (CHP) (coal and gas) and for an increase of CHP in national energy supply (DGB rejects nuclear power plants).

B) Developing new industries (renewable energy)

C) Public investments to limit damages due to climate change

In March 2007, IG Metall and BMU issued a joint statement saying that the European automotive industry is not realizing its corporate responsibility to reduce CO2 emission voluntarily and that rules and regulations have to take care for sustainable development and employment growth.

Employer organisations

There is no statement by the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (Bundesvereinigung der deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA) on how to promote the green agenda.

For BDI, see above remarks on BDI’s 2008 Manifesto on Growth and Employment and on ecological industrial restructuring. BDI’s primary interest is geared towards research and investment funds in energy efficient technology and in increasing the export rates of green technology products of the machinery, electric and energy industry. BDI calls for another BMWI’s export initiative on green technology.

7) Any unilateral and joint strategies and actions, including:

Currently, there are no joint strategies and actions by DGB and the employers associations on the issue of ‘green jobs’.

However, there have been joint initiatives by DGB-affiliates and employers’ associations in defence of national sectoral interests. For instance, IG Metall and the German Association of the Automotive Industry (Verband der Automobilindustrie, VDA) whilst cooperating in criticizing the EU Commission’s proposal to limit the CO2 emission of cars in 2008, addressed a letter to Chancellor Merckel calling for car tax reductions for passenger cars with low C02 emission.

  • awareness-raising campaigns for members

Trade unions

The DGB, together with the state of Berlin, conducted a project on the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings, which has been continued by the state of Berlin. Currently, DGB experts provide information and assistance to local authorities wishing to implement the project’s concept.

IG BAU has been cooperating with Greenpeace and other ecologically-oriented NGOs in promoting the idea of the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings. In cooperating with the NGO Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR), IG BAU is launching the joint concept ‘Precedence of jobs by environmental protection’ to promote job creation by promoting energy efficiency, renewable energies and ecological agriculture.

IG Metall stimulates interest in the development of the wind power sector by providing a sector-related newsletter and research report. The union has also launched a research study on the working conditions in the renewable energy sector. As the number of works councils and trade union representation is low, IG Metall provides online-information on industrial relations in the renewable energies sector.

Joint initiative

In 1987, the Mining, Chemicals and Energy Industrial Union (Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, IGBCE) and the German Federation of Chemicals Employers' Associations (Bundesarbeitsgeberverband Chemie, BAVC) jointly founded a society to inform works councils on environmental protection (GIBUCI). Since 2001, the society has also provided training to works councils. IGBCE and BAVC also cooperate in the global initiative ‘responsible care’, a project on workplace health and safety and environmental protection.


In March 2009, BDI together with the Federal Ministry BMU offered a prize of € 125,000 to establishments and research institutes for technological innovation in climate and environmental protection.

VDA provides a range of online information on climate policy, on technological products and innovations on CO2 emission and energy efficiency and publishes a brochure on ‘managing the environment’ (Umweltmanagement) in the supply chain of the automotive sector.

  • bilateral dialogue structures, including those at sectoral level

The DGB and the employers’ associations do not cooperate in a bilateral dialogue structure. Joint statements – such as a joint declaration by DGB and BDI on energy policy in 2006 – are rare. The organisations stated disagreement on the point of nuclear energy, but declared common interest in strengthening a national policy of energy mix, of export of renewable energy technology and of investments in power stations and energy networks.

Trade unions

see above - the DGB’s project on energy efficiency.

The DGB, in cooperation with the educational institution DGB Bildungwerk and BMU, conducts a project ‘resource efficiency in firms’. Works council members and employees are trained in detecting und implementing ways to improve energy efficiency. The training is part of a programme leading to a certified degree as ‘efficiency expert’. IG Metall cooperates with the employer association of the aluminium industry to implement the project at workplace level.

See above, IG Metall and IGBCE initiatives.

Joint initiative

In 1990, IGBCE unilaterally set up a foundation work and environment which provides information and training on environmental protection at the workplace, trains works council members in environmental protection measures and set up an online-based glossary on environmental protection for workers. BAVC and employers are members of the advisory committee.


The Federal Association of the German Electrical and IT-trades (Zentralverband der Deutschen Elektro- und Informationstechnischen Handwerke, ZVEH) together with the Federal Employer Association of the Solar Sector (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft, BSW-Solar) developed a certificate (‘Anlagenpass’) on the technological components and on the execution of photovoltaic installations in private households and in firms. The paper is meant to stimulate interest and to improve the quality of installations.

The main initiatives for reviving the economy and promoting the green agenda, both general and sector-specific

Trade unions:

Currently, the DGB’s two main targets are promoting an energy mix of renewable energies and technologically optimized traditional energy sources (cogeneration) and to call for further investments in the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings.

Employer organisations:

BDI’s primary interest is geared towards increasing the export rates of green technology products of the machinery, electric and energy industry. BDI calls for research and investment funds and for another BMWI’s export initiative on green technology.

9) Any relevant studies and research

Of fundamental importance are the publications by the national Council on Sustainable Development, particularly the May 2008 report on the 21 indicators of sustainable development which reviews the policies by the federal government.

In 2008, BMU set up a working group of experts on the data bases of green workplaces. Also, in 2007 and 2008 the Environment Ministry commissioned a network of four research institutes to conduct annual studies on the gross employment effects of renewable energies. The latest report by O’Sullivan (inter alia) on the short and long-term effects of the promotion of renewable energies on the German labour market was published in March 2009.

A comparative research study on renewable energy policies by the states (Laender), initiated by the Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien (AEE), is of methodological interest as the study develops indicators for comparing sectoral developments and employment growth.

On behalf of the Federal Foreign Office, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics published a study (2009) on analysing ways of ‘greening’ the economic stimulus packages of the G20 states.

10) Any other relevant responses, initiatives or tools, set up by DGB, provides a range of (partially outdated) information on green issues and approaches of the trade unions.

Birgit Kraemer, Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI)

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