Deficits and potentials of the vertical structure of ProgRess

Institutional transmission belts of multi-level systems have to mesh to ensure percipience, responsibility, and also legitimisation. It is important to support activities for the implementation of resource efficiency measures on Lander and municipal level. However, the description above sheds a first light on the weakness of ProgRess: the decentralised design of the resource policy with rather guiding than obliging instruments entails a patchwork of effective and ineffective interventions and (all too often) non-interventions. Without an at least mandatory and specific resource policy addressing the most resource-intensive sectors, the tiger may remain toothless.

The following sections will highlight some deficits concerning the vertical structure of ProgRess as well as the content in more detail.

Policy development process

Firstly, we have to point out the vertical structure for the development of ProgRess (see Figure 14.1). This structure is based on an inter-ministerial exchange between the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the

Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which is, among others, supported by the ‘National Platform Resource Efficiency’ (NaRess). In NaRess, stakeholders from business and economy as well as the federal states are, for instance, directly addressed by the format. It is a structural deficit that stakeholders from the municipalities are addressed less. This means one of the major actors is only slightly considered in the follow-up development process of ProgRess III. The Lander are involved in the vertical process. It needs to be mentioned, however, that better horizontal exchange and cooperation between the Länder in the context of resource policy would also be reasonable.

In contrast to the ProgRess approach, the German Waste Prevention Programme is a joint programme of the Federal Government and the Lander to which both governance levels are committed. It is thus an example of vertical integration. The Lander either adopt the guidelines or have to develop independent waste prevention programmes. In addition, dialogue takes place for the development of the programme/strategy to involve stakeholders such as representatives of public institutions, industry players. NGOs, scientists, etc. For ProgRess, however, there are considerably more process elements established for the coordination of the actors (NaRess, NeRess, etc.), but there is no reciprocal commitment for participation.

Furthermore, the integration of waste and resource policy is challenging from horizontal and vertical perspective due to the largely separate responsibilities, activities and actors, which can be found in almost all competent authorities from the national to the municipal level.

Content and representation

Secondly, there are deficits in the content of ProgRess. It is important to take into account the partial overlapping, but not congruent actors and institutions targeted by ProgRess — for example, in the context of resource efficiency and circular economy.

The integration of spatial planning, land management, and resource conservation is insufficiently addressed by ProgRess. The Länder-specific possibilities for action in this context are, therefore, insufficiently guided by aspects of resource protection. Sustainable urban development does not cover urban sprawl or the continuing increase in traffic areas and parking spaces.

This has partly led to the countries concentrating on micro-economic resource efficiency and non-regulative instruments to nudge activities, albeit very successfully. More than 70 activities were newly created since the update of ProgRess II in 2016 and identified in the study. 15 Lander offer public financial programmes in order to support enterprises in their efforts to strive for more resource efficiency. However, it has become increasingly clear that the focus on industrial win-win solutions is only successful to a limited extent and the resistance is high, not only in Germany (Tukker & Ekins 2019).

Also, critical sectoral fields of action like the mobility are furthermore not part of ProgRess. The areas construction, housing, and mobility however traditionally play a major role in both state and local policy, especially from an economic point of view. ProgRess’ tension between a very broad and comprehensive design of 120 approaches in ten action areas and a narrow focus on abiotic raw materials leads to partly unclear responsibilities and possibly to the problem that actors not feel authorised at all. Moreover, some examples show that the used headings for the action areas in ProgRess are partly vast and not concrete, whereas the subheadings are very concrete. The wording has to be optimised with a focus on the target groups — including a direct designation.

ProgRess implementation

Thirdly, we have to look at the implementation processes. ProgRess is a policy mix acting in a multi-level system, but because of the large number of stakeholders and high amount of levels and legal spheres that are touched, the implementation of the programme is highly complex and confronted with several barriers. This is, inter alia, complicated by changing actors (political configurations) and long-term institutional arrangements.

At Länder level, responsibilities for energy and resource efficiency are usually not split (no state has a resource efficiency ministry). The targeted use of synergies, however, is an exception, for example, for building renovation. As a consequence, the main activities of the Länder to foster resource efficiency have a focus on the industry and small and medium-sized enteiprises. An example is the promotion of the information platform Centre for Resource Efficiency (VDI ZRE) which is closely connected to the Association of German Engineers (VDI).

ProgRess is almost unknown on the municipal level, and integrated incentives to engage in resource efficiency do not exist. Moreover, there is no direct contact person on the local level concerning the issue of resource efficiency, despite several intersections. This is a main deficit because the implementation of resource efficiency measures is often driven and implemented on the local level by actors from the municipalities. Better information, as well as incentives for the municipalities, are missing so far.

To foster the protection of natural resources, all potentials in all fields of actions in the different governance levels have to be addressed in the right way. Not all possibilities and potentials, however, have been exhausted on a local and regional level, which is why the issue of resource efficiency needs has to be expanded with the spotlight on actors such as municipalities and their activities. Local management systems aiming for cross-sectoral optimisation of material Hows are not firmly entrenched, particularly in cities. On this background, the objective is to optimise the vertical integration of the Länder as well as the municipalities within the further development and implementation of ProgRess.

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