Environmental Code

The Environmental Code in the grassClick to enlarge
Environmental Code
Source: Silke Seider / Umweltbundesamt

A uniform Environmental Code shall harmonise and simplify the host of individual environmental laws.

Table of Contents


Reasons for an Environmental Code (UGB)

German environmental law has evolved over many years and due to pressure exerted by various environmental problems. For this reason, there are today many special environmental laws, which are directed in most cases at individual environmental media and co-exist side by side. These laws sometimes use different definitions of concepts and regulatory approaches, or give weight to different environmental media. These inconsistencies make it difficult to apply environmental laws. Another reason for an environmental code is the transposition of new EU Directives, which would be simplified by a unified code book.

A core element of the UGB shall be integrated project approvals, which would establish standardized nationwide procedural arrangements for industrial installations and other major projects having environmental relevance. Instead of handling several parallel approval procedures, companies and citizens will have one contact person.



Development of the Environmental Code

First preliminary works began in the 1970s. In the Environmental Report of 1976, the Federal Government expressed its intention to consider whether and how to reform and make more uniform German environmental law. The German Environment Agency thereupon commissioned research projects on “Systematisation of Environmental Law” and “Harmonisation of Environmental Law”.

In 1990 the "Group of Professors" presented its first draft (Reports of the German Environment Agency 7/90) which contained overarching principles, rules and procedures for the different areas of environmental regulation. This was followed by a draft proposal on the special sections of the Environmental Code (Reports 4/94). Based on these proposals the “Independent Expert Commission for the Environmental Code” presented its draft in 1997.

The ministerial draft of the “First Book of Environmental Code” was worked out in 1999. Due to constitutional obstacles concerning the federal legislative powers for nature protection and water, the legislation project failed. Finally, with the Federalism Reform of 2006, the way was free to create a uniform Environmental Code for the whole of Germany.

A Project Group in the Federal Ministry for the Environment took up work again and entered in close consultations with stakeholders and the federal Länder. In spite of intensive coordination efforts, the Federal Government could not reach an agreement. So far, no Environmental Code has been submitted to the legislative procedure.

Instead, four so-called Environmental Code Replacement Acts have been passed (the Act on the Consolidation of Environmental Law, the Act on the Revision of Water Legislation, the Act on the Revision of the Federal Nature Conservation Act and the Act on the Protection against Non-Ionizing Radiation).


Activities of the German Environment Agency

Since the end of the 1970s, the German Environment Agency supports the attempt to pass a consistent environmental code in Germany. We have been working intensively on the ministerial draft.

The Federal Environment Ministry and the German Environment Agency have accompanied the development of the ministerial draft with the publication series "Forum Umweltgesetzbuch", where different aspects of the Environmental Code are addressed.

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