This article examines how German environmental policymaking over the last 40 years transformed Europe’s economic engine into the international driver of green growth. By examining Germany’s environmental policy development in the energy, infrastructure and transportation sectors, transferable lessons are gleaned that may help the US pave its own green policy agenda.
How Germany Became Europe’s Green Leader creates a bridge between Germany’s successful green policy outcomes and relevant solutions to the obstacles currently hindering the United States. Political polarization, the need for long-term strategic planning as well as policy fragmentation are all issues that once characterized Germany’s environmental policy landscape, yet now mirror the impasse the US must overcome in order to go forward.
Germany’s solutions may have their own legal and political idiosyncrasies, but the extent of their success necessitate deeper exploration for those who want similar success to occur across the Atlantic. First, successful policies began as small-scale projects that expanded when proved successful. The German Renewable Energy Resources Act, (EEG) initially provided subsidies to basic renewable energy sources for grid access. As EEG became more established, it eventually covered a broader array of innovations and technologies. Long-term planning and coordination that cuts across boundaries (levels of government or public/private sectors) have greater policy effectiveness than “silver bullet” approaches that strive for limited, short-term solutions. In addition, new solutions that benefit both sides of a policy divide have greater staying power than solutions that don’t enjoy such broad-based appeal.
Green economic transformation is not just possible, but as Germany demonstrates, it can incorporate the key sectors that are vital for both economic and ecological sustainability. If policies are carried out on a step-by-step basis, with coordination, consent and enlargement geared towards a long-term vision, the United States can become both an economic and a green energy leader.