Raw material consumption increases once again – to 16.1 tonnes per capita and year

UBA recommends a reduction of VAT on resource-efficient goods and services

Ein BraunkohletagebauClick to enlarge
By international comparison Germany has a very high level of raw material consumption.
Source: Andreas F. / Fotolia.com

The German Environment Agency (UBA) is urging a reform of European regulations on value added tax (VAT) to promote a reduction of raw material consumption. UBA's President Maria Krautzberger says: "Whatever conserves resources must be made cheaper. The member states need more possibilities to promote efficient products through a reduced VAT rate. The EU has already approved this practice for repair services of products such as bicycles or clothing but unfortunately not for items such as electrical and electronic equipment. This has to change." According to the latest Use of Natural Resources Report by UBA, raw material consumption in Germany has decreased by a total 17 percent since 2000 but has again crept up in recent years. Statistically speaking, every person in Germany consumes 16.1 tonnes of raw materials per year – 10 percent higher than the European average.

Germany consumes some 1.3 billion tonnes of fossil fuels, minerals, ores and biomass per year. UBA's Use of Natural Resources Report claims that the majority of raw material consumption is non-metallic minerals (45%), fossil fuels (29%) and biomass (21%). Although raw material consumption in Germany is becoming more and more efficient thanks to industry efforts and total raw material productivity has increased by 26% since 2000, Germany has an excessively high level of raw material consumption compared to other countries: 10% higher than the average in Europe, and even 100% higher than the global average. More than half of the raw materials consumed for the production of goods is sourced from abroad.

A reduced VAT rate for repair services in Germany could create incentives to adopt resource-efficient behaviour. EU legislation already allows this for the repair of bicycles, shoes or clothing but not for electrical and electronic equipment. Furthermore, VAT tax breaks for resource-intensive goods should be gradually phased out. European law sets strict limits in this regard. "Germany should campaign for such a debate at EU level so that the member states can take better account of resource efficiency in their tax policies", said Ms Krautzberger, adding: "We must ensure that investments in resource-efficient technologies and goods is rewarding throughout the EU and that we can tax the repair of electronic and electrical goods at a lower rate in Germany. In many cases, it would make it worthwhile to repair these products." UBA is also calling for a lower tax rate on products which are particularly resource-efficient and have an ecolabel like the Blue Angel.

Responsible resource management is not a topic exclusive to Europe but rather a joint task to be handled by the international community. "That is why we need an international agreement on the protection of natural resources in which the parties commit to numerical figures regarding resource efficiency, minimum standards for the fair extraction of natural resources, and doing without raw materials from trouble-prone regions", said Ms Krautzberger.

The 4th European Resources Forum and National Resources Forum will be discussing these issues on 27-29 November in Berlin together with guests from more than 50 countries.

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