Land take: Make goals binding

UBA recommends a quota system and land certificate trading scheme

Aerial view of a small townClick to enlarge
Aerial view of a small town
Source: Christian Schwier / Fotolia

An area of 66 hectares of new land is consumed every day in Germany. This urban sprawl has severe negative effects on the environment, which is why the German National Sustainability Strategy set the objective to reduce land take to 30 hectares per day by 2020, and to less than 30 hectares by 2030. The campaign to conserve land area developed as a spinoff of a research project by the German Environment Agency (UBA) shows that current building and planning law will not be enough on their own to achieve the “30-hectare goal”. The goal must be made legally binding, and land must be distributed among the Länder and local authorities according to a fixed ratio of allocation. The scheme could be implemented through land certificate trading at municipal level as its practicability has been successfully tested in a national pilot project.

UBA's President Maria Krautzberger said: "Land take is one of the most serious environmental problems in Germany. An area of 66 hectares of new land is used or sealed every day for building – the size of about 90 football fields. The landscape is becoming more and more scattered, the burden on soil and groundwater is growing, the habitats of many species have been destroyed, and traffic is causing more noise and waste gases. Our land consumption is still twice as high as the Federal Government's goal for 2020. It is very clear that we must reduce land take, and we can only do it through a quota system and by introducing binding quantity restrictions."  

A nationwide pilot project by UBA involving 87 municipalities trialled a land certificate trading scheme. These municipalities received a quota of free certificates based on their population. Each municipality receives only the number of certificates to cover the amount of land which may be consumed. The certificates allow the municipalities to designate new-build land area outside of areas which are already built up, thus setting limits on the amount of new build area. If municipalities lack the number of certificates needed, these must be purchased from other municipalities.  

The pilot project demonstrates that the trading scheme works and effectively reduces land take. Land certificate trading also ensures the prevention of unviable planning, that more inner urban development occurs, and that sites are used more effectively. In particular, municipalities in structurally weak regions with high outward migration even stand to benefit from the cash flow involved in certificate trading, without having to refrain from necessary community development measures. 

The results of both projects [Land Take Reduction Action Plan & Pilot scheme in land certificate trading] were presented in Berlin on 23 March to some 120 experts from public administration, science and other practitioners. The Land Take Reduction Action Plan was carried out by the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) in Berlin; the Cologne Institute for Economic Research was the lead consortium partner in the pilot project on land certificate trading. 

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