Environmental policy and environmental law

Legal, political and institutional governance has a key part to play in all environmental issues – from the sustainability of companies to new challenges such as digitalisation and the use of chemicals and nanomaterials, not forgetting the expansion of renewables and sustainable consumption patterns.

Environmental policy – national and international

It was not until the 1970s that Germany developed its own environmental policy; the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) was established in 1986, five weeks after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, to assume responsibility in this area. National, European and international environmental policy is now a highly diverse field. It covers a wide range of issues, including industrial pollution control, resource conservation, renewable energies, climate change mitigation and the conservation of biodiversity. The task often includes encouraging a “greener” approach in other areas of policy, such as economic, trade and agricultural policy. Environmental policy instruments range from regulatory measures and positive and negative incentives for sustainable business practices to communication tools, the creation of infrastructure and the monitoring of voluntary commitments by companies. The participation of the public in environmental decisions, for instance on infrastructure projects, is also vital.

Environmental law – a multi-faceted framework

Environmental policy decisions are often translated into environmental legislation and secondary regulations. Protection of the environment is regulated at national, European and international level. For example, Germany’s circular economy act and its renewable energy act operate at national level, the Ecodesign Directive and the European Landscape Convention are examples of European rules, while the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity are international instruments. But regardless of the level at which it operates or the aspects of the environment that are addressed, the legislation must never remain rigid. It evolves to take account of new requirements and technologies – such as new biotechnology processes.

Supporting policy-making and implementation

Experts at the Oeko-Institut work on environmental policy and environmental law at various levels. They support and advise private-sector organisations and companies as well as public actors at municipal, regional, national and EU level. For example, they support the transposition of EU directives into German law and advise policy-makers on effective instruments for managing sustainable environmental policies and transformation processes such as the energy and mobility transitions. As well as addressing substantive issues, the Oeko-Institut’s experts also explore and advise on issues relating to political processes and strategies, answering questions such as “How can subjects be placed on the political agenda and successfully communicated?”, “How can stakeholders be mobilised?” and “How can windows of opportunity be used and actively created?”