The German example?

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Is Germany so green it?

In the latest of the Commission on the implementation and enforcement of Community environmental law for 2003 year, Germany was in the middle and came 7ème on 15. France being dead last. Neither dunce or first class, Germany must overcome the difficulties related to the federal structure of the country while compensating for shortcomings and delays by other environmental advances.

The response of the Ministry of Environment to the latest warnings from the European Commission was quick. On the one hand, the ministry defended its action by retorting that he had been working hard to address the "chronic backwardness" of Germany, on the other hand, raising the difficult question of the division of powers between the government and the Länder (Regions). In fact, the federal government does not have all the legal competence to enforce the law for the whole country, some laws within the jurisdiction of the Länder. "The federal structure of the country complicates decision making and implementation of environmental law. For countries like France and Poland that are centrally organized, it is much easier to enforce laws in the country. In Germany, it must go through a process which often means that the bills proposed by the government are once finished negotiations affadis "says Rüdiger Rosenthal, spokesman of the Bund, the largest environmental organization in Germany.

An embarrassing federal organization

Thus Germany has been pinned on the proposed expansion of Frankfurt Airport, the project set up by the state government of Hesse. He foresaw in effect creating a new runway passing just above a chemical industrial site ... The Commission had also indicated its frustration about the application of the directive on the natural reserves. In 2004, four Länder, Brandenburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt had still not transposed Directive whose maturity was set in ... 1994.

But Rüdiger Rosenthal, the main problem of this political organization is the primacy of private interests over the public interest: "Take the example of the transport policy. The states submit to the federal government a list of projects they want to see. But local customers such as construction companies, put pressure on the states and will influence the development of this list, and this in a rather negative way for the environment, as can be imagined. "

Germany in the middle

If Germany does not shine as much as one might think in the environment, it is not final of the European class. The last Commission report shows that at the end of the year 2003, Germany had still not transposed directives 20 which puts in the Netherlands and Belgium, France arriving end ranking with 38 for non transposition. The Award of Excellence is for Denmark with 7 cases only unimplemented directives.

In its environmental ranking of OECD countries (31 in all), the agency of socio-environmental rating Oekom research also located in Germany the average. The small variety of species and the small area of ​​protected natural areas are, according to the agency, the environmental Achilles heel of the country. However, this is offset by the "exemplary" resource management, resulting in low power consumption, low levels of waste, and therefore a wide recycling rate and a low gas emission rate - figures that are measured in terms of economic productivity of the country, says Marnie Bammert, the Munich agency.

The agency also notes that the country has, in addition to the Environment Ministry, an agency for the environment, and also expert advice institutionalized environment. In addition, according to the United Nations agenda 21, the country encourages the participation of stakeholders in decision-making on the establishment of a sustainable development policy. Finally, Germany has enshrined the principles of sustainable development into its constitution

Side effects of the economic depression

The automobile has long featured prominently in Germany that contrasted with environmental awareness displayed in the country. But the economic recovery still refuses to come and Rüdiger Rosenthal observed behavioral change among German consumers: "Until now, the philosophy of bigger, faster and more luxurious always winning in Germany, which, of ecologically, is of course unacceptable. With the current economic situation, consumers pay attention to their energy consumption. This is the first time we also recorded a lower expenditure of gasoline in Germany, people more readily taking the bike or public transport "

According to the environmentalist, so the importance of ecological issues weakens in favor of economic and social issues, consumers are still aware of the relationship between their lifestyles and climate change issues. "Apart from the economic environment, this link allows a much better acceptance of the consumption pattern change," Rüdiger Rosenthal trusts.

Claire Stam


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