Environmental policy

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The term environmental policy , which was developed around 1970 from the English environmental policy was formed, denotes the totality of political endeavors to preserve the natural foundations of human life and nature .

Development of environmental policy

The development of environmental policy as an independent policy area was closely linked to the emergence of ever-increasing environmental awareness in the 1970s. Both were a reaction to drastically increasing environmental problems , pacemakers were social movements such as the environmental movement and the anti-nuclear movement . Previously, the tasks of environmental policy were divided between different policy areas such as agriculture or industrial policy. The protest movement of the 1960s (see also 68 movement ) still had little interest in environmental politics.

Development in the United States

In the United States, civil society was the driving force behind environmental policy. Already in the 19th century there were discussions about the environmental pollution caused by coal as an energy carrier in the big cities.

Frank Uekötter describes 1970 as “a radical turning point”. President Richard Nixon succeeded in responding to the emerging “ecological mood” with “cleverly launched environmental initiatives” to win over voters.

Development in Germany

In 1952 the 'inter-parliamentary working group for natural economy' was founded, in 1962 the German Council for Land Care .

In West Germany the policy area developed in four phases. The policy area was first discovered by the federal government ; the civil society sector developed with a delay. Federal Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP) gained responsibility for water protection , air pollution control and noise abatement in November 1969 and combined the new department under environmental protection . New laws were announced in Willy Brandt's government statement .

  • Establishment phase

With the start of the social-liberal coalition in 1969, the identification of the fundamental, most clearly perceptible environmental pressures and the development of countermeasures began. In 1970 the federal government ( Cabinet Brandt I ) passed an immediate program for environmental protection and on September 29, 1971 the first environmental program . It announced over 100 laws and ordinances , some of which have already been budgeted. The environmental program also created greater environmental awareness among the population. While in September 1970, according to an infas survey, only 41% of those questioned knew the term environmental protection , in November 1971 92% were already familiar with it. The Federal Ministry of the Interior was in charge of environmental policy . The FDP was the first party to include environmental protection in its program (1971). The example of environmental policy in the USA also played a role. The first Earth Day took place there on April 22, 1970 . In 1970 Bavaria was the first government in Europe to introduce its own ministry for the environment , where there was traditionally a strong homeland movement .

In 1971 the Federal Government established the Advisory Council for Environmental Issues , in 1972 the Conference of Ministers of the Environment followed and in 1974 the Federal Environment Agency was founded. At the same time, the first citizens 'initiatives emerged , which in 1972 gathered in the Federal Association of Citizens' Initiatives Environmental Protection (BBU).

  • Downturn

With the oil crisis of 1973/1974, after its successful establishment, environmental protection fell behind economic arguments. For the first time the phrase “job killer environmental protection” was used. The disappointment with this downturn and the associated standstill resulted in numerous other environmental groups and citizens' initiatives in the field of the environment. A broad "environmental protest" formed. The second oil crisis in 1979/1980 helped to make people more aware of the importance of environmental protection through the need to save energy . The exit of the environmental politician Herbert Gruhl from the CDU in 1978 marked the uncertainty of the opposition party on the subject. The ruling SPD also lost supporters to the Greens that formed nationwide in 1980 .

  • Consolidation phase

At the beginning of the 1980s, the increasing pressure of ecological problems and its greater awareness by the population, as well as the establishment of green and alternative parties, increased the political importance of environmental protection. The entry of Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen into the German Bundestag in 1983 was the result: The new party ensured the permanent presence of the topic and forced the other parties to adopt an independent environmental policy. An unmistakable forest death , which has been a topic in the big media since 1981, favored the change in the assessment of the economic consequences of a lack of environmental protection. New improvements in environmental policy instruments were introduced by the Christian-liberal government, e. B. 1983 the ordinance on large combustion, gas turbine and combustion engine systems and 1986 the amendment of the technical instructions (TA) for keeping the air clean . An economic recovery and the end of the Cold War (" Perestroika " from 1985) helped.

  • Modernization phase

With the Chernobyl reactor disaster in 1986, the death of forests and other disaster reports, environmental policy entered a new phase at the end of the 1980s. Previously, the downstream prevention of environmental pollution through the use of technology dominated, with the establishment of the term sustainable development by the Brundtland Report of the United Nations, the attempt to avoid the occurrence of environmental damage began. A well-known instrument in this phase is the environmental impact assessment ("EIA"). By around 1990, environmental protection achieved a high political and socio-political status; During the term of office of Federal Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer (CDU) (1987-1994), many sensible changes were made in environmental legislation. After the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989/1990), other political issues received more attention, especially since deindustrialization in East Germany eliminated many environmental problems.

While Angela Merkel was Minister of the Environment (1994–1998), the euphoria of the post-reunification period (“ Blooming Landscapes ”) evaporated . Under the conditions of globalization and economic stagnation , environmental protection measures were again seen more as a stumbling block for economic growth and innovation .

At the end of 1998 the "Kohl era" ended . Under Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder , the Greens became coalition partners in a federal government for the first time; they appointed Jürgen Trittin as environment minister in the red-green coalition from 1998-2005 . Trittin, for example, negotiated the nuclear consensus ( nuclear phase-out ). At this time, environmental policy was a political area in which SPD politicians tried to raise their 'business-friendly' profile and Green politicians their environmentally friendly profile.

  • internationalization

During Angela Merkel's time as Chancellor, many global challenges for environmental policy became apparent, such as climate change , the melting of polar ice and glaciers, and ocean pollution from plastic parts. Through her work at international conferences around 2006/07 she acquired the reputation of a climate chancellor , even if many deny that she deserves this name. At the Climate Summit 2014 in New York, she did not attend in person.

Environmental protection expenditures of the Federal Republic of Germany

Government spending and investment

  • 1977: € 4.3 billion
  • 1982: € 6.08 billion
  • 1987: € 7.83 billion
  • 2009: € 33.21 billion

Source: Federal Statistical Office

Problem of a cross-sectional area

Environmental policy shares with other policies such as women's policy the problem of a cross-sectional area of ​​showing thematic overlaps with many other policy fields. Especially the vital environmental policy economic policy , including agricultural policy , the energy policy , the transport policy , the town planning and - settlement policy . Since the causes of environmental damage are often the responsibility of these areas, these references demand a high degree of interdisciplinarity , communication, persuasiveness and assertiveness as well as a willingness to compromise on the part of environmental politicians.

Problem of a long-term area

Environmental policy shares with other policy fields such as pension policy the problem of only becoming important in the long term. Decisions that have been made - or missed - have a long-term effect, often only with a long delay. However, since politicians in democracies often think in terms of election periods (4–5 years) or primarily until the next election date and are exchanged in their rhythm, short-term policy patterns are favored. The same applies to business leaders, who often neglect long-term developments because they orientate themselves on quarterly figures, annual figures (sales, profits) and fluctuating stock exchange prices. There is a tendency to neglect topics where the effects of political decisions over many years or decades into the future must be taken into account. Subareas such as climate protection policy can hardly be approached otherwise than on a global scale.

Environmental Policy Principles

As in other policy areas, there is no general agreement on the overriding principles of environmental policy. Nevertheless, some principles can be highlighted as very widely accepted:

  • The polluter pays principle states that the originator of an environmental pollution should also bear the costs of its removal. In fact, however, the shared burden principle still applies to a large extent , according to which the general public bears costs that are not (no longer) attributable or cannot be raised by the polluter.
  • According to the precautionary principle , environmental damage should not arise in the first place.
  • This principle intensifies the precautionary principle to the effect that in the event of a lack of reliable scientific risk assessments, in case of doubt, a decision in favor of the prohibition of an activity or product development must be made.
  • The substitution principle , which postulates that hazardous substances should be replaced when a more environmentally friendly substitute is available (especially for chemicals), is not quite as sharp .
  • The integration principle or cross-sectional principle means that environmental protection is also a matter for other policy areas (e.g. transport policy , agricultural policy ), as decisions in these areas often cause environmental problems.
  • The principle of cooperation states that important social groups should work towards the most consensual realization of environmental policy goals. This is the only way to expect effective implementation of environmental policy measures.
  • Environmental policy should be based on scientific evidence. It is therefore a particularly intensive policy area.
  • The principle of sustainability comes from forestry . According to this, the annual logging must not be greater than the amount of renewable wood. This principle can also be used in fishing and hunting. In general, the following rules of use apply according to the principle:
    • In the case of renewable resources, the rate of degradation must not exceed the rate of regeneration, e.g. B. Forestry
    • The amount of waste or pollutant emissions must not exceed nature's absorption capacity
    • The consumption of non-renewable resources must be balanced out by, for example, increasing their effectiveness

Institutional anchoring in Germany, Austria, Switzerland

Constitutional foundations

The German Basic Law (Art. 20a, inserted by constitutional amendment in October 1994) and the Swiss Federal Constitution (Art. 73 and 74) contain state objectives that give the federal government guidelines for a policy to protect the natural foundations of life.

In Austria, a corresponding constitutional provision is currently missing.

The goals of the European Community include "a high level of environmental protection and improvement of environmental quality" (Art. 2 ECV ).

State institutions

In Germany, environmental policy was given an institutional framework in 1974 by the establishment of the Federal Environment Agency under the Federal Ministry of the Interior . On June 6, 1986, about five weeks after the severe Chernobyl reactor disaster , the Federal Environment Ministry was founded.

With this step, the Federal Government at the time - Kohl I Cabinet - combined more environmental policy fields (previously distributed among the departments of the Ministry of the Interior , Agriculture and Health ) and reduced the need for coordination (see above) in the cross-sectional area of ​​environmental policy.

Some of the German federal states have independent environmental ministries; these cooperate in a regularly meeting of the Environment Ministers ' Conference ("UMK"). The environmental ministries of the federal states differ considerably in the layout of their business areas and in the size of their departments , units and number of employees. The environment ministries in Bremen , Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein , for example, are particularly broad, and are responsible for agricultural and energy policy in addition to core environmental issues. With their many government participations, Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen have shaped the layout of many environmental ministries in recent years. You clearly put a focus on climate and energy policy .

In 1993 a Federal Agency for Nature Conservation was established .

In 1986 Austria for the first time had an independent Ministry of the Environment. In 2020, the environmental department was spun off from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Austrian Ministry of Transport was transformed into the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology .

The Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication has existed in Switzerland since 1997 .

Measures and instruments

Regulatory law

Regulatory instruments such as B. Do's and don'ts are generally seen as indispensable when it comes to the immediate avoidance of environmental damage and the defense against environmental hazards . However, the use of regulatory instruments often provokes defensive reactions, or the prohibitions are only enforced to a lesser extent (see environmental law ).

Planning instruments

Planning instruments are used in a variety of ways. The most important planning instrument nowadays is spatial planning , which is decisive for the question of how areas are used. The setting of goals, the achievement of which is left to lower levels, can also be counted among the planning instruments. A controversial instrument is the formulation of quality targets for certain environmental media. It is feared that in less polluted areas this could lead to less stringent requirements and “filling up” with pollutants.

Another instrument that is used in the planning phase of projects is the environmental impact assessment . This is anchored in the European Union with the EIA Directive.

Market economy instruments

Market-based instruments are intended to provide economic incentives for environmentally friendly behavior. The main concern here is the so-called internalization of environmental costs ( external costs ) . This happens, for example, through a tax burden on the use of environmentally harmful substances (price solution). Environmental taxes, such as the various eco taxes in Germany, are a political attempt to establish cost truth . It is questionable whether a sufficiently effective price correction is possible on the part of the state under market conditions. The increase in the electricity tax with relief for ancillary wage costs particularly burdened single people with children as well as non- income tax payers with low incomes. The experience of incentive taxes in Switzerland , with a partial per capita redistribution of income, indicates the enforceability of tax increases: revenue neutrality for the state income relieves the lower and middle income groups, at the same time gives them a price signal for the goods worth protecting. If the eco- taxes were paid back as an eco-bonus in Germany , they would lead to an additional income of at least 10.15 euros per month and person. Even a further increase would be compensated. The reform would clearly be progressive. The Green Check in Denmark is also such a refund. Since 2010 an annual eco bonus of 1300 dkr. paid for adults. The green check for children is 300 dkr. is transferred to the mother. The Green Check is not the same per capita, but declining with a higher income: Citizens with an income of more than 362,800 DKK. receive only 7.5 percent of the reimbursement.

However, there is no generally accepted model for including the environmental factor in the calculation of gross domestic product , as requested by the European Parliament in 1994. Another option is emissions trading , such as EU emissions trading or company-internal emissions trading . Here politicians directly specify the environmental target (quantity solution), the price for the emission certificates is established on the market . Subsidies or tax write-offs can be used as funding instruments for positive incentives. They are recommended above all when it comes to the remediation of contaminated sites or the compensation of damage, the cause of which can no longer be determined. With LIFE , the EU has had a joint financing instrument for priority environmental measures since 1991.

Cooperative instruments

Cooperative instruments can be used sensibly especially where there is a certain equality of arms between environmental protection and industrial interests. This can involve agreements between the state and the polluters, but also between associations and polluters. The core idea is that with the help of agreements, above all regulatory requirements that set a narrow framework can be avoided. However, this presupposes that the state always reserves the right to intervene in a regulating manner by means of commands or prohibitions. At the European level, in November 1996 the European Commission presented a study of the usefulness of voluntary agreements. In it she stated that unsatisfactory results of existing voluntary self-commitments are mainly due to the way in which they arise. It therefore recommends clear structures in the form of contracts between the parties involved. These contracts should contain both the quantitative goals, commitments and progress as well as the sanctions .

In Germany there is the Lower Saxony Alliance for Sustainability , the Bavarian Environment Pact , the Brandenburg Environment Partnership , the Bremen Environment Partnership , the Hamburg Environment Partnership , the Hesse Environment Alliance , the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Environment Alliance , the Saar Environment Pact , the Saxony-Anhalt Environment Alliance , the Thuringia Sustainability Agreement and the Saxony Environmental Alliance .

Environmental information

The provision of environmental information is particularly important for an effective perception of many of today's environmental problems that are less obvious. The Aarhus Convention , a fundamental treaty under international law, gives every woman and every man the right to largely free access to knowledge about all environmental matters. It not only obliges the authorities to disclose their environmental data and measurement results, it is also the basis for the right to environmental education and the promotion of environmental organizations . Another possibility is to use the eco-label to provide information about particularly environmentally friendly products. Since the summer of 1993, products have been able to receive an EU eco-label (similar to the Blue Angel known in Germany ). Environmental information can also have a very immediate effect. B. the carcinogenic effect of a product in the media often results in the product disappearing from the market immediately.

Other actors in environmental policy

Above all, environmental associations identify deficiencies in environmental protection and denounce them in order to bring environmental issues onto the agenda of political actors . Your problem-oriented approach means that it is not within the departmental even think and act limits of public policy and work so that always unconventional and innovative proposals. They are therefore seen as an indispensable part of overall environmental policy.

In addition to the environmental associations, scientific advisory bodies play an important role. This is mainly done at the German federal level

The independent experts evaluate the previous environmental policy and make recommendations regarding its future direction.

The business associations have developed independent environmental policy positions in recent years and represent them in relation to state politics, often embedded in a general economic policy argument. Their positions usually aim to be spared from binding individual regulations. For numerous individual topics, such as B. climate protection , business associations have made so-called self - commitment declarations with which they set themselves environmental policy goals in the expectation that no legally binding regulations will be set on the same subject in return. The experiences with these voluntary commitments are very different. They often seem unsuitable for the implementation of ambitious goals and internationally binding agreed targets.

There are also cross- interest groups, such as B. the Austrian ÖKOWEB .

International environmental policy

European Union

As early as 1971, the European Community began to develop approaches to an environmental policy in the form of a "Communication from the Commission on a Community Environmental Policy", which, however, initially hardly resulted in concrete initiatives due to the weakness of personnel and institutions in environmental protection within the European Community institutions. It was not until 1987 that European environmental policy was given competence anchoring in the objectives of the EC through the Single European Act , which was expanded by the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties , and institutional support in the form of the Environment Directorate-General .

The European Union has set itself the goal of promoting environmental and health protection as well as the sustainable use of natural resources and implementing measures to deal with regional or global environmental problems at the international level. With the Lisbon Treaty , the fight against global warming was set as a further environmental policy objective and energy policy was given its own article in primary law (Art. 194 TFEU ). The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament are equally involved in environmental legislation through the co-decision procedure .

Environmental policy has an increasingly important place on the European agenda. It is an integral part of the Europe 2020 strategy, which foresees a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy for Europe. The basis for the environmental component of the strategy was laid in the Sixth Environment Action Program 2002–2012 .

Global environmental policy

At the international level, transnational environmental problems were first discussed. These include above all air and water pollution (pollution of rivers and seas), the depletion of the ozone layer (known since around 1980) and global warming .

The United Nations has played an important role in this since the 1970s. They initiated the Framework Convention on Climate Change (see also: Climate Protection Policy , Kyoto Protocol , Emissions Trading ). The Global Environment Facility , which is roughly in the area of ​​the UN, finances the consideration of global environmental goals for measures in developing countries .

United Nations specialist organizations such as

who originally had no environmental policy tasks are increasingly faced with the need to take environmental protection interests into account in their respective policies. This integration process is often slow and conflictual.

As in other areas of international politics , the usual instrument for the implementation of environmental policy objectives is the international treaty, which requires ratification and implementation in domestic law.


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See also

Web links

Wiktionary: environmental policy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

State and supranational institutions of environmental policy

Individual evidence

  1. Frank Uekötter: How new are the social movements? Revisionist remarks against the background of environmental history research , bulletin of the Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr University Bochum, issue 31/2004, p. 118
  2. Frank Uekötter: How new are the social movements? , Bochum, issue 31/2004, p. 131
  3. For the story, see pp. 57-63
  4. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: Pictures of the Downfall - DER SPIEGEL 24/1971. Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  5. ^ Kai F. Hünemörder: The early history of the global environmental crisis and the formation of German environmental policy (1950-1973). Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  6. Sabine Weiland: Politics of Ideas: Sustainable Development in Germany, Great Britain and the USA. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2007 p. 141.
  7. To govern ecologically. Retrieved February 4, 2019 .
  8. ^ Stefan Bach, Empirical Studies on Tax Distribution and Tax Reform in Germany , University of Potsdam, Habilschrift, pages 171-184, especially page 182: Table 4.4-5 Distribution of the ecological tax reform . Published online at the Institutional Repository of the University of Potsdam, 2012.
  9. Jesper Kühl, Kasper Marc Rose Nielsen & Kristian Vest Nielsen, July 2012, EUROMOD Country-Report Denmark , Section 2.3.6. Green Check (PDF; 616 kB)
  10. Overview on the website of the Sachsen Umweltallianz ( Memento from April 13, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  11. http://www.europaeische-bewegung.de/europappolitik/umwelt/
  12. http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_de.htm
  13. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/newprg/