After 20 years of lobbying for reform of existing environmental legislation, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment recently presented a draft bill for a new Environmental Code (UGB).

The main purpose of the UGB is to unify the somewhat fragmented federal and Länder laws. It also aims to achieve a significant change in the approach to environmental regulation – whereas current environmental legislation regulates air, water management, soil and nature individually, the UGB is based on the premise that the environment is a complex ecological compound comprising all environmental elements. This approach reflects that already adopted by the EU and should make the implementation of EU legislation into national legislation much easier in the future.

In treating the environment as a whole, the UGB also establishes a new environmental permitting approach, the Integrated Plan Approval (IPA). The IPA will replace the previously separated approval process for emissions control and water legislation. It is, however, debatable whether the IPA process is actually necessary – an integrated approval process has long been practiced for the approval of industrial facilities and existing law is extensively co-ordinated.