Blue Competence adopts a stance.
As the sustainability initiative of the mechanical engineering industry, Blue Competence is involved in numerous discussions relating to topical issues. Here we publish standpoints and positions which we consider to be important for implementing sustainable solutions for the economy, ecology and society.
The German government is making electromobility a major industrial policy project because it wants to see a million electric vehicles on German roads by the year 2020. Many people associate electromobility with the vision of travel without any harmful emissions and without the consumption of energy derived from fossil fuels.
The study entitled "Electromobility as a Field for the Future – Opportunities and Challenges for the German Mechanical Engineering Industry", which was presented jointly by the VDMA and the management consultancy Roland Berger, demonstrates that by 2025 around 40 per cent of newly licensed vehicles will have a hybrid or fully electric drive.
The mechanical and plant engineering sector will play a key role here: to manufacture the necessary components, the automotive industry will require new production technologies that still need to be developed – alongside technologies for conventional drives. The acceleration in the pace of innovations required can be achieved through research, in particular in the areas of production technology, battery technology, and drive technology. These leaps forward in terms of innovation achieved for electromobility will also benefit lots of other applications beyond simple road transport (construction machinery, agricultural machinery, materials-handling technology etc.).
The promotion of R&D which is now emerging must be open to new technology and include fiscal funding for research. Faith must also be shown in the research structures which have already made our industry strong in the past, not least in the interdisciplinary, pre-competitive innovation networks of industrial collaborative research.
The global demand for energy is increasing massively. At the same time, it is essential to curb the pace of climate change. This presents enormous challenges for energy and climate policy. On the one hand, we still need to maintain a secure and affordable supply of energy. On the other hand, CO2 emissions need to be reduced drastically. Energy efficiency has a central role to play in bridging these conflicting priorities.
As a key industry for energy and climate technology, the mechanical engineering industry can and will make a decisive contribution to delivering greater energy efficiency. We will be able to do this most effectively by employing free market forces. Selective interventions from the state can in fact actually pose a barrier to real progress.
Energy as a topic is rightly described as a "mega-trend". Global developments and the requirements of society are all too clear. This iridescent term harbours a project of real superlatives: The transformation of the energy system in Germany and Europe and the development and expansion of the energy infrastructure around the world. The prerequisite for the success of this project is effective technological implementation.
The companies in the mechanical engineering industry can make a decisive contribution here. Our technologies are the key to energy efficiency, conserving resources and reducing emissions of CO2 along the entire supply chain – from the provision of the primary energy and the conversion of energy on the basis of conventional and renewable sources of energy right through to making efficient use of energy in industry, commerce and buildings.
Framework conditions which are predictable and reliable beyond the end of legislative periods, in particular for manufacturers of durable capital goods, are crucial in order to ensure that the energy system can be transformed in a sustainable and efficient way. This applies both in the short term when customers of the mechanical and plant engineering sector require a sound basis for making investment decisions, and in the medium and long term with a view to how the research and development activities of the mechanical engineering industry itself will be structured.
The companies in the mechanical engineering industry not only attach great value to having good relations with their customers and suppliers, but also make great efforts to ensure the wellbeing of their employees and to create a positive regional environment.
Whether we call it social tradition, a responsibility to society or corporate social responsibility – a family-friendly working environment, social and cultural responsibility in relation to where the company is based and a desire to preserve the environment are all a matter of course for mechanical and plant engineering companies.
Social responsibility is part of the corporate culture and relies on individual and voluntary commitment. Regulatory policy interventions and "top-down" schemes do not achieve the desired aim. The call to the politicians is therefore: Let's make use of the freedom we need to take responsibility ourselves in ensuring the wellbeing of society, and put your trust in the social responsibility of our companies.
Both national environmental policy and European environmental policy are pursuing ambitious aims. This means that the mechanical and plant engineering sector must also act. This is because these ambitious aims of climate policy and environmental policy will be unachievable without the appropriate technologies.
However, this does not mean that the mechanical engineering industry will automatically benefit in every respect from an ambitious environmental policy. On the contrary – the competitiveness of the sector will quickly be under threat if, for example, design control takes over in product-related environmental protection. So the key thing is to stimulate the innovative drive of the capital goods industry so that creative technical solutions for protection of the environment can be found.
Effective environmental protection as the basis for living conditions and production conditions with a viable future requires partners from the worlds of industry and engineering.
Sustainability encompasses ecological, economic and social aspects in a balanced relationship. Innovative policies can advance ecological and social aims and enhance the innovative ability and competitiveness of companies.
To achieve these aims in equal measure, economic efficiency and ecological and social sustainability must go hand in hand. Politicians need to create reliable and consistent framework conditions for this at both a national and European level and give clear priority to the tools of the free market economy over regulatory interventions. An environmental policy based on market economics relies on self-responsibility rather than orders and bans.
Market-based tools in environmental protection make the use of the environment a cost-determining factor for citizens and for companies. Where use of the environment comes at a price, the individual person can make a rational economic decision about whether or not protection of the environment is worthwhile. Recourse to regulatory law for the purpose of achieving environmental policy aims can only be justified if market-based tools fail to have an impact.