How humans react with nature

Preserve nature, protect the environment

"Sustainable use of resources and sustainable management are the be-all and end-all for a long-term quality of life."from an online answer dated July 11, 2015

A clean environment for a healthy life

Healthy living conditions were discussed intensively by the people in the citizens' dialogue. These included clean air and water, unpolluted food and low noise levels. Good air to breathe was particularly important to the citizens in the dialogue. Scientifically, a clear connection between air quality and people's well-being can be proven.

"We need a healthy environment and a healthy diet, which is becoming more and more difficult."from the citizens' dialogue of the VHS Gifhorn on September 29, 2015

A recognized indicator of a healthy environment is that Exposure to air pollutants.

Development of air pollutants combined (index)

The emission of the five most important air pollutants is considered here: sulfur dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen oxides (NOX), Ammonia (NH3) volatile organic compounds without methane (NMVOC) and fine dust (PM2.5). The substances are equally weighted in the combined indicator.

A look at the indicators shows that there is some good news, but much remains to be done. Overall that is Air in Germany in recent years got better. In terms of total annual emissions, it was possible to reduce emissions.

If one considers the five most important air pollutants separately, one can see: At four of the five pollutants fell in Germany-wide emissions since 2000 clearly - only ammonia is emitted just as frequently today as it was at the turn of the millennium. Ammonia emissions come from agriculture in particular, especially from large livestock farms.

Although Germany has undertaken not to exceed the national maximum annual emissions of 550 kilotons from 2010 onwards, the mark has been exceeded by around 20 percent every year since then. Further efforts are required in order to achieve the 29 percent reduction in ammonia emissions set out in the EU-wide agreement on air pollution control by 2030.

However, total emissions have only limited informational value with regard to the air quality on site. There are local problems with concentrations that are too high.

Development of various air pollutants (index)

In Metropolitan areas and on important traffic routes the limit values ​​are repeatedly exceeded - with negative consequences for people's health and for the environment.

The Concentration of nitric dioxide in the air is from the 536 measuring stations of the air measurement networks of the federal states and the Federal Environment Agency. The map shows the annual mean values ​​of nitrogen dioxide pollution in 2018. The legal limit is 40 µg / m3.

The legal limit of 40 µg / m was reached at 21 percent of the measuring stations3 exceeded. In the case of nitrogen dioxide, the so-called 1-hour limit value of 200 µg / m was reached3 exceeded in 9 locations in 2018. In the previous year, this still applied to 17 locations. At the Stuttgart Neckartor measuring station, the 1-hour limit was exceeded on 11 days. The annual average pollution levels for nitrogen dioxide range from less than 10 µg / m3 up to just over 70 µg / m3 in individual cities.

A distinction is made between traffic-related measuring stations (Traffic), stations in the in the vicinity of industrial plants (Industry) and measuring stations in background. Background means that the measuring station is not near a busy street or in the immediate vicinity of an industrial plant.

All transgressions the annual nitrogen dioxide limit value occurred in stations close to traffic on. Traffic is a major contributor to air pollution, not just through the emission of nitrogen oxides from internal combustion engines. Also at particulate matter traffic (including mobile machines and devices) alone is for around a quarter of emissions responsible.

The annual limit value was exceeded in 2018 at 109 of the 260 traffic-related measuring stations.

Source: Federal Environment Agency 2017, updated data

The limit values ​​for air pollutant concentrations apply uniformly for the European Union. Limits are exceeded in numerous countries. in the European comparison belongs to Germany Nitrogen dioxide at the bottom of the pack.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in an EU comparison in 2016

At the particulate matter Germany is in the middle of the range of EU countries.

Particulate matter (PM2,5) in an EU comparison in 2016

What is the federal government doing?

Measures to promote electromobility are an important part of the 2030 climate protection program. In the future, more electric vehicles are to be driven on Germany's roads and thereby also reduce air pollutants. To this end, the federal government is promoting the construction of public charging stations, increasing the purchase premiums for cars with electric, hybrid and fuel cell drives and improving their tax incentives. Those who travel long distances by train will in future be able to do so more cheaply by reducing the value added tax on train tickets from 19 to 7 percent.

Keep forests, bodies of water and farmland in balance

An intact nature was one of the most frequently mentioned aspects in the citizen dialogue. Healthy forests, clean water, good air quality and local recreation areas in the city were of particular importance to the people. The state in which nature is in Germany, opinions differed widely in the citizens' dialogue, as the following quotes show:

"No one is interested in environmental protection, beautiful nature is increasingly neglected everywhere."from an online answer dated June 19, 2015
"There are beautiful landscapes and cities [...] a temperate climate and a reasonably healthy environment."from an online response dated July 7, 2015

Varied and diverse cultural landscapes with forests, meadows and fields are, compared to densely populated regions, of great value for the recreation of the population. The citizens are well aware of this value and know about it Complexity of ecological relationships. So is a big one biodiversity an essential prerequisite for an efficient natural balance and forms an important basis for life.

As a yardstick for the condition of agricultural areas, forests, settlements, inland waters as well as coasts and seas, the Indicator for biodiversity and landscape quality, also known as Bird index, used. The index includes 51 selected bird species that are native to the most important landscape types. Changes in the population of these bird species allow indirect statements to be made about the quality of the landscape and the sustainability of land use. Because birds in particular are very sensitive to changes in their ecosystem.

Development of biodiversity and landscape quality aggregated

The Biodiversity and landscape quality development is anything but positive: the indicator remains at a consistently low level if one considers the average of all land use forms - agricultural land, settlements, forests, etc. On the positive side, it should be emphasized that the indicator rose again in 2015 for the first time in three years.

Development of biodiversity and landscape quality, aggregated and sub-indicators

Nevertheless, in 2015 the indicator only reached 70 percent of the target value that the Federal government in the sustainability strategy and in the National Biodiversity Strategy has set. The condition of the agricultural areas, the coasts and the seas are particularly critical, even if a slight upward trend has recently been observed. It looks much better with the biodiversity and landscape quality of the forests: in 2015 just over 90 percent of the target value was achieved.

What is the federal government doing?

The federal government wants to improve biodiversity and stop the massive death of insects. To do this, she launched the Insect Protection Action Program. The urban nature master plan supports municipalities in strengthening biodiversity in the immediate vicinity of people.

Progress and productivity through energy efficiency

In the citizens' dialogue there were a few critical voices about wind turbines and new power lines. However, the majority of the participants supported the energy transition in Germany. They saw it as an important contribution to environmental protection and a showcase project that was recognized worldwide.

"Germany should be a role model when it comes to a clean environment."from an online answer dated August 13, 2015

The energy transition, i.e. the conversion of energy generation to renewable energies and the reduction of energy consumption, aim to protect the climate and reduce dependence on fossil raw materials. All of this improves the quality of life in Germany in the long term.

Using energy more efficiently, i.e. producing more with the same amount of energy - that also protects the environment and saves costs at the same time. This applies to the heating and electricity bills of private households as well as to companies and factories. Last but not least, it increases the competitiveness of Germany as a location. As an indicator of a efficient use of energy serves that Relationship between gross domestic product (GDP) and primary energy consumption.

Development of energy productivity (price-adjusted GDP (2010) per unit of primary energy consumption)

Germany has major advances in energy productivity made.

The German economy has grown by almost 47 percent since 1990. Thanks to innovative technologies and government incentives, energy consumption fell by more than nine percent in the same period. That means one Energy productivity increase of around 65 percent. This means that energy productivity in 2017 improved again by 1.4 percent compared to the previous year.

The decoupling of economic growth and energy consumption is a key step forward for prosperity. It is due to increased efficiency in the conversion sector, to a more economical use of energy sources in the consumption sectors and to structural changes in the economy towards less energy-intensive branches of industry towards more services.

But the federal government is not satisfied with that. Their goal is: In 2020, energy should be used in Germany twice as efficiently as in 1990.

What is the federal government doing?

In order to lower energy consumption and lower CO2 emissions, building renovations are subsidized by taxes. Anyone who replaces their old oil heating system with one that is entirely powered by renewable energies receives a subsidy towards the investment costs. To make it even easier for companies to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gases, the federal government is supporting companies in the energy transition with the “Federal funding for energy efficiency in the economy”.