What are your goals for 2020

The year 2020 was still a long way off when Germany received a sustainability strategy for the first time. A "future process" should begin "in order to discuss future worlds for 2020". When the strategy was first served, there were dozens of ideas for setting the course for sustainability. In 2002, red-green ruled, and 18 years seemed like enough time to turn things around for the better in the country.

This new year was the big target year in terms of sustainability, there were indicators after indicators: 60 percent all-day care. Ten percent earnings gap between men and women. 20 percent less primary energy consumption than in 2008. Surface sealing should be curbed and the share of renewable energies increased.

18 years later, the time for reckoning has come. However, this year the federal government will be able to tick very few of the goals of yore, most will probably be missed. At least then, if it has not already been meekly postponed, lowered or completely cashed in. There are few fame papers.

"Every generation has to solve its tasks and must not burden the next generations with them", it was already said in the first sustainability strategy in 2002. The best-known example of this is now the climate target: 40 percent fewer greenhouse gases than 1990 - by 2020. It has already been defined At the beginning of the nineties by a study commission, but initially it was not included in the sustainability strategy. At the time, the previous climate target was still in effect, a drop of 25 percent by 2005. Of course, it was not achieved. In 2009, the Union and FDP set the new, much higher target for 2020 in the coalition agreement: minus 40 percent. However, it did not help: it is already foreseeable that this goal will not be achieved.

Instead, there is now a new target, 55 percent less by 2030. This is a popular reflex, says sociologist Ortwin Renn, who heads the Potsdam Sustainability Institute IASS. "That should give the impression: You got it, now you really want to do something. But this reflex leads to an endless vacuum."

The balance sheet is not bad everywhere. The proportion of early school leavers, around the turn of the millennium at almost 15 percent, should drop to less than ten percent by 2020. That should succeed, as well as the reduction of the smoking quota, an increasing proportion of employed persons and also that of women on supervisory boards. The share of renewable energies in electricity consumption has been above the target value of 35 percent since 2018. In the reports on the state of affairs, small suns can be found in such reports of success.

2010 will become "in the next few years" and the "next years" will quietly become 2030

In the case of other goals, federal governments had already reacted in advance. Originally, for example, organic farming was supposed to make up 20 percent of the agricultural area by 2010. But the goal did not and did not want to get any closer. 2010 became "in the next few years" and the "next years" then quietly and secretly 2030. Recently, only a good seven percent were achieved. There is still room for improvement.

It was similar with the sealing of surfaces. "We don't make enough awareness that undeveloped landscape is also a limited resource," said the first sustainability strategy in 2002. At that time, an average of 130 hectares were sealed per day, the goal being a drastic reduction to 30 hectares . To be achieved, of course, in 2020. That turned out to be ambitious, in 2016 the average was still over 60 hectares per day. So the federal government also postponed this target to 2030. For this purpose, land consumption should be "below" 30 hectares per day by then. That gives another ten years delay.

The government unceremoniously put a cloak of silence about another goal that was never part of the sustainability strategy. Originally, one million electric cars were to be on German roads by 2020. The country was supposed to become the "lead market" for electromobility. When the target got out of range, no one spoke of it. The latest climate protection program now speaks of one million charging points - by 2030.

Such maneuvers are dangerous for politics, warns researcher Renn. "Goals have a relief function for politics: You have to show something without actually having done anything." But the problems would then be put back on the table by subsequent governments. "The disenchantment with politics is also a receipt for goals that are not underpinned with politics."

On the other hand, the goals sharpen awareness of what is still wrong. According to the federal government's count, 24 out of 66 indicators are as good as planned. In 28 other areas, be it in all-day childcare, the income gap between men and women or energy efficiency, the goals have come closer. Others saw setbacks, for example with nitrate in groundwater. As Chancellor Angela Merkel likes to say: "So there is still a lot to do."