Environmental and nature conservation associations can take recourse to special legal remedies. The right to take legal action entitles them to initiate a review of administrative rulings as to whether they comply with environmental regulations.
Exercising the right to initiate legal proceedings in Germany requires associations to be recognised pursuant to Article 3 of the Environmental Appeals Act (UmwRG).
The UBA on the federal level and the federal states (Länder) share the responsibility of granting recognition to environmental and nature conservation association. The UBA is responsible for the recognition of German associations whose scope of activity reaches beyond the territory of a federal state and for all foreign associations. Authorities at Länder level are responsible for the recognition of German associations whose scope of activity is limited to a given federal state.
The UBA maintains a list of all the environmental and nature conservation associations recognised by the Federal Government (UBA and the Federal Ministry for Environment). A list of associations granted recognition by the federal states can be requested from the respective competent authorities or on their websites. Information and links are at the bottom of the list of associations recognised by the Federal Government.
The office for recognition Anerkennungsstelle Umwelt-Rechtsbehelfsgesetz at UBA is available to answer all inquiries. More information about the recognition of environmental and nature conservation associations is on the webpages listed in the navigation bar on the right.
The UBA has organised three events on access to justice in environmental matters. See online for information and workshop papers: Rechtsschutz zur Stärkung des Umweltschutzes, Transboundary Access to Justice for Environmental NGOs and the conference Rechtsschutz im Umweltrecht in der Praxis.
Research on access to justice
Evaluation of the Use and Effects of NGO appeals under the German Environmental Appeals Act (Umwelt–Rechtsbehelfsgesetz, UmwRG)
This research project done on behalf of UBA analyses the instrument of environmental NGO actions pursuant to article 2 UmwRG. The aim of the empirical study was to determine the effects of NGO lawsuits on the implementation of environmental regulations and the incorporation of environmental concerns in administrative decisions.
The study examined 37 environmental appeals filed up to early 2012 by recognised environmental associations since UmwRG entered into force in 2006. Nearly half of the appeals were successful, at least in part. The right to appeal under UmwRG is exercised by associations in only a few exceptional cases. A “flood of appeals” which had raised concerns prior to the introduction of the UmwRG did not materialize. Also the study showed that the mere possibility of filing an environmental appeal seems to be enough to ensure that environmental concerns are taken into greater consideration in administrative decisions.
The final report is available here and listed at right under "Publications".