Environmental industry still a key economic factor

Competitive pressure grows, share of exports shrinks

Windkraftanlagen stehen im MeerClick to enlarge
Offshore wind turbines
Source: Michael Rosskothen / Fotolia.com

Environmental protection continues to be an important factor for Germany's economy. A new report by the German Environment Agency (UBA) on the 2015 environmental industry says that German environmental goods are in demand all around the world and in all areas of environmental protection. German businesses produced environmental protection goods worth more than 83 billion euros in 2015 but international competition growing. China has more than tripled its share of international trade in potential environmental goods since 2002, in particular through its production of solar energy systems, and it is now world champion in exports. Germany is in second place with a share of world trade of 13.5 per cent (China: 16.2 per cent). UBA President Maria Krautzberger said: "The global market for environmental protection goods is growing steadily, and in recent years especially in emerging economies in Asia, South America and now in Africa. Germany must be vigilant and not lose its current good market position. Environmental policy must now create the planning security for investors with the requisite long-term goals and the right economic conditions."

Ms Krautzberger continued to say: "Although Germany is still in a good position – not least of all because its companies had to deal with high environmental policy standards from early on – there is a risk of losing this standing if we simply implement the European minimum standards. We need high standards in environmental law to drive innovation. We must promote such development in the EU and in Germany."

Production volume in the environmental protection sector has risen slightly from 81.6 billion euros in 2013 to over 83 billion euros in 2015, or six per cent of total industrial goods production. The 40% share of potential environmental protection goods in overall production volume represents by far the largest environmental area. This includes wind turbines and solar energy systems. Ms Krautzberger said: "The Climate Change Conference World in Bonn clearly showed once again that we must be resolute in our fight against climate change. The ongoing efforts around the world will also result in the growth of the global market for environmental goods and mitigation technology. We must take advantage of the economic opportunities that this brings."

Both exports and imports determine international competitiveness. After all, the products made by German companies compete on the domestic market with foreign products. Development in the solar cell market in recent years has made this very apparent. In the wind energy sector, however, German companies succeeded in gaining shares on foreign markets. German industry is traditionally very competitive in measurement and control engineering for environmental protection as well as in solid and liquid waste management technologies.

The German Environment Agency updates and publishes information on developments and competitiveness in the environmental industry in its biennial Report on the Environmental Economy.