Does the German Environmental Appeals Act help to protect the environment?

08.06.2012

Since 2006 environmental associations have a greater scope under law to represent the interests of the environment. Actions can now be brought in the case of projects requiring an environmental impact assessment. But what has changed in reality? Is there more environmental protection as a result?

In a jurisprudential and empirical project researchers are analysing for the first time whether and how use has been made of the German Environmental Appeals Act (Umwelt-Rechtsbehelfsgesetz) which came into effect six years ago. The objective of the act is to give environmental associations an additional possibility to bring actions and thereby increase the legal protection of environmental matters. This legal opportunity – also referred to environmental complaints – is the first legally effective means of seeking judicial review of such projects which can have substantial impacts on the environment.

But does the act have practical consequences? Oeko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) and the Society for Institutional Analysis at the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt (sofia) are embarking in mid-June 2012 on an analysis which aims to provide some answers: How many environmental complaints have been made since the act came into effect? How costly were they? Was it possible to bring about improvements for the environment? “In order to answer these and further questions, we need the cooperation of as many environmental associations as possible who, by participating in our survey, can make an important contribution to showing the real picture and to the elaboration of policy recommendations,” says Silvia Schütte, researcher at Oeko-Institut.

From Oeko-Institut’s perspective the German Environmental Appeals Act has the potential to make an important contribution to environmental matters being given greater weight in planning procedures. Not only because environmental associations can act as advocates for the environment should legal action be taken; the fact that the option to bring an action is enshrined in law can itself lead to the environmental impacts of planning procedures being more heavily scrutinised at the outset.

The survey of recognised environmental associations begins in mid-June 2012. All those participating in the survey will have the opportunity to learn of the results and insights gained in the research project at a workshop. The project is commissioned by the German Ministry for the Environment and the German Federal Environment Agency and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2013.

Further information (on sofia’s website)

Flyer for the research project “Evaluation of the use made and the impact of collective legal actions under the German Environmental Appeals Act (Umwelt-Rechtsbehelfsgesetz)”  [in German language]

Contact at Oeko-Institut

Silvia Schütte 
Researcher in Environmental Law and Governance Division 
Oeko-Institut, Darmstadt office 
Phone: ++49-(0)6151-8191-134 
Email contact

Falk Schulze 
Researcher in Environmental Law and Governance Division 
Oeko-Institut, Darmstadt office 
Phone: ++49-(0)6151-8191-105 
Email contact