Environmental Compliance Assurance

A red barrel lies in a river and is examined by a person in a green protective suit.Click to enlarge
Monitoring of the environment is one of the important tasks of the environmental enforcement staff.
Source: Microgen / Fotolia.com

Environmental law is only effective if properly enforced. The German Environment Agency therefore works to ensure that environmental law is enforced well.

According to the Basic Law, the Länder are responsible for execution of laws, with the Federal Government assuming responsibility in exceptional cases only (cf. Article 83 et seq. Basic Law).

With regard to environmental law this means that the Länder are responsible for the execution of most of the body of legislation, e.g. the implementation of immission control law, water law and nature conservation law. A number of laws, however, are enforced by the Federal Government. The laws and ordinances which the German Environment Agency implements are listed here (German only). The administrative structure in the Federal Republic of Germany, especially the division of tasks between the federal level, the level of the (Bundes-)Länder (federal states) and the local-level is explained among others in “A Guide to Environmental Administration in Germany“ developed by the German Environment Agency.

The police, public prosecutors and the courts play an important role in the enforcement of environmental law in that they follow up on and penalize violations of environmental law (cf. Laws of environmental liability, harm and criminal actions). In its Umweltdelikte [Environmental crimes] publication series the German Environment Agency tracks developments in environmental crime based on statistics provided by police forces and the courts. The 2018 edition of Umweltdelikte (German only) is available here.

Citizens and (environmental) associations can help in the enforcement of environmental law. Access to environmental information, participation and justice are key in this regard.

Enforcement of European environmental law

The European Commission has set itself the target of improving environmental compliance assurance, for which it adopted a nine-point Action Plan for Environmental Compliance Assurance in early 2018. The Commission also supports the European networks of enforcement authorities (IMPEL, European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law), the police (EnviCrimeNet, informal network of police officers and other crime fighters in the field of environmental crime), public prosecutors (ENPE, network of prosecuters for the environment) and judges (european forum of judges for the environment EUFJE).

The German Environment Agency has also actively supported the work done by IMPEL since it was founded in 1992. IMPEL aims to support the effective implementation and application of European environmental legislation. IMPEL's activities are project-based and promote the exchange of information and experience between all the competent bodies responsible for the implementation, application and enforcement of EU environmental law. This includes ministries, authorities, and law enforcement experts. IMPEL also focuses on the coherent interpretation, application and execution of EU environmental law. The network provides decision-makers, enforcement agents and environmental inspectors a framework for the exchange of ideas and it supports the development of best practices. IMPEL acts in an advisory capacity to the Commission and other EU institutions with regard to better regulation from a practitioner's point of view and to the enforceability of existing and planned EU environmental law.

Dialogue with Experts of Environmental Compliance Assurance

The German Environment Agency also commissioned a study entitled "Dialogue with Experts on the EU Legislative Act on Environmental Inspections" to the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut) and the German Research for Public Administration in Speyer to determine what changes enforcement experts in Germany would like to see in the implementation of environmental law.

The study planned a series of dialogue events with enforcement experts, which took place as regional events in Dortmund, Berlin, Speyer and Hamburg. The participants discussed the challenges they face in the enforcement of environmental law and how to best handle these challenges. The goal of the dialogue was to discuss the results of a legal and public administration scientific analysis (background study) and an online survey of enforcement experts. The outcome indicated that these experts do not necessarily want changes in legislation. In addition to adequate staffing and technical equipment, the participants favoured more opportunities for exchange and improved cooperation with other authorities as well as improved availability of information for enforcement authorities, facility operators and the public.

The study, results of the online survey and dialogue events, their evaluation and recommendations from the research team for support of enforcement have been compiled in a final report.