Federal Minister Julia Klöckner invited
Round table to be held at Klasmann-Deilmann
Klasmann-Deilmann has invited Julia Klöckner, German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), to our company headquarters in Groß Hesepe. The background is the current debate on reducing the amount of peat in growing media and potting soils. Managing Director Moritz Böcking commented on this in an interview.
Mr Böcking, let us once again describe the events chronologically. How did the invitation of the Federal Minister Julia Klöckner come about?
Moritz Böcking: Europe wants to be climate-neutral by 2050. Against this background, the German government wants to significantly reduce emissions in Germany already by 2030. In this context, Federal Minister Julia Klöckner demands that less peat be used in growing media and potting soils. This is a concern that we support in principle, also because peat supplies in Germany will be exhausted in the foreseeable future.
For example through our 15 % target by 2020 and the 30 % target by 2025?
Moritz Böcking: Yes, we are adding more and more alternative constituents to our growing media. This puts us on the absolute right track. Our competitors also know that this direction is irreversible. Last winter, the German substrate manufacturers met and agreed on a voluntary commitment. This was a big step for all involved and a far-reaching offer to politicians.
What is the voluntary commitment?
Moritz Böcking: In potting soils for hobby gardeners, the share of peat is to be reduced by 50 % by 2025 and by 70 % by 2030. At the same time, we are reducing the peat content in growing media for commercial horticulture by 20% by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
From Klasmann-Deilmann’s perspective, this sounds feasible.
Moritz Böcking: Yes, it is feasible. But it is a huge challenge for our company, because we will not accept any loss of quality for our customers and the necessary renewable raw materials will be difficult to obtain. Our scenarios with 15 % and 30 % refer to our own worldwide sales and are accordingly even more ambitious. The voluntary commitment of the German substrate manufacturers refers to Germany alone. It was necessary to formulate targets that are feasible for the entire industry – even if Klasmann-Deilmann is already a little further along in this country. We consider the voluntary commitment to be fair and realistic.
So far, the whole thing sounds like a desirable development.
Moritz Böcking: Unfortunately, the Ministry immediately issued a statement that the goals of the German substrate industry are not ambitious enough. Julia Klöckner calls for further measures, i.e. even less peat in growing media and especially in potting soils. The main argument here is the erroneous assumption that peat causes 2% of German emissions. Shortly thereafter, she wrote to important trading partners in our industry asking them to support them in achieving their goals against us.
And then came the summer break.
Moritz Böcking: Much has happened behind the scenes in the past weeks. However, the substrate manufacturers, who are organized in the German Horticultural Industry Association (Industrieverband Gartenbau, IVG), are still in the process of coordinating with other associations on how to proceed. That is why Klasmann-Deilmann has taken the initiative and invited Julia Klöckner personally to join us at the Innovation Center. Our approach is very much welcomed by the IVG.
What exactly is the idea behind the invitation?
Moritz Böcking: We would like to organize a “round table” where the debate on peat reduction strategy will be continued. We have informed representatives of state politics, including the Minister of Economics of Lower Saxony, Bernd Althusmann, as well as politicians from the region and at EU level. Invited are also the IVG, the Central Association for Horticulture in Germany (Zentralverband Gartenbau, ZVG) and the German Scientific Association for Moors and Peat (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Moor- und Torfkunde, DGMT) as well as of course representatives of the other substrate manufacturers. Ideally, we would have a very high-caliber discussion panel as our guests.
What arguments will Klasmann-Deilmann use?
Moritz Böcking: We are currently developing a position paper on this topic. For this purpose, we have calculated the share of peat extraction and use in German emissions. A key basis was the climate report from Julia Klöckner’s ministry, the so-called “National Inventory Report 2020”. If you take its figures as a basis, peat is responsible for a maximum of 0.3% of German emissions – and not for 2%. Someone in the BMEL has made a huge miscalculation. Another argument is the fact that peat is still the best raw material for high-quality growing media. In addition, we fear increasing shortages of wood fibers, green compost, bark, etc., if too high a proportion is to be added to potting soils and growing media in too short a time. Especially during the Corona crisis, the horticultural industry has proven how robust it is and how important substrates are for a secure vegetable and ornamental plant supply in Europe. Peat is a local raw material that makes Europe independent, even if international transport routes are sometimes disrupted.
What demands would we make?
Moritz Böcking: We support the German government’s climate protection policy. At the same time, we must ensure that the quality of our products is maintained. The voluntary commitment provides a realistic framework for both goals. We want to defend this framework. Our demands that go beyond this relate, among other things, to secure access to alternative raw materials, to promote research projects, to be very careful with peat substitutes in the food industry segment and in ornamental plant cultivation – and that the use of peat remains possible.
But isn’t peat utilization the critical point?
Moritz Böcking: Klasmann-Deilmann supports the European Sustainability Initiative “Responsibly Produced Peat” (RPP), whose aim is the responsible use of peat extraction areas and the protection of natural moors. To this end, RPP has established a certification scheme that demonstrably combines the selection, use and restoration of extraction areas with strict requirements. If all parties agree on RPP-certified peat, we use a raw material that fits into the sustainable development of our country, the substrate industry and our products.
Is there any feedback from Berlin yet?
Moritz Böcking: The invitation has only been out for a few days. Now the matter must be thoroughly examined in Berlin and an opinion developed. We assume that it will take a little longer with the answer, we are curious!
Thanks a lot, Herr Böcking.
Moritz Böcking: You’re welcome. We keep you up to date.