Backed by the right policies, companies in the green sector could help create 1 million new jobs by 2020, according to a strategy paper authored by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
"This is the right answer to the crisis," Steinmeier said Monday in Berlin.
Called "A growth strategy for Germany -- new jobs through investments in energy and environment," the paper calls for a transformed economy that relies on sustainable growth without harming the environment or threatening social equality. "The environment industry has proved to be a stabilizing factor in the economic crisis," the Social Democrats write in their dossier, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reports. "It's about the renewal of the entire economy and the sustainable transformation of traditional industry sectors."
Gabriel is Germany's top environment and green energy official; Steinmeier is running for chancellor against current officeholder Angela Merkel. With the strategy paper, the Social Democrats are trying to raise their profile in the green sector ahead of the Sept. 27 federal elections, observers say.
Unlike Merkel, Steinmeier is in support of phasing out nuclear energy. The controversial energy source has many opponents in Germany, and an agreement foresees shutting down all nuclear power plants in Germany by 2021. Merkel's conservatives have said they want to extend the running times of Germany's most modern plants.
The paper lists several key green industries, including renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, resource efficiency and conservation, as well as sustainable drinking water production and sustainable mobility. Both leaders argue Germany is well-prepared to dominate competition on the global markets in all these sectors. The German renewable energy sector, for example, employs roughly 280,000 people.
To fuel further green growth, the Social Democrat politicians call for government subsides for sustainable products and green technology financing schemes. The paper proposes a fund, supplied by government and private money, to support clean tech startups and increase efficiency in industrial production.
The strategy paper explicitly lauds the plan of some 20 German companies to build several concentrated solar power plants in north Africa to produce clean electricity for Europe. Called Desertec, the project will require $200 billion in investment and is aimed at eventually satisfying 15 percent of Europe's electricity.