Schröder outlines Germany's green priorities

"Fragmented" environmental laws to be consolidated in new framework "law book"

Germany will create a new environmental code bringing together existing environmental legislation, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said yesterday. In a speech marking the opening of the first parliament under the new government, Mr Schröder also stressed his determination to phase out nuclear power, saying it was "socially unacceptable".

The new "environmental law book" will contain the environmental aspects of legislation and regulations within all policy areas. Environmental groups, who have long pushed for the introduction of a consolidated environmental law, say it would bring more transparency to environmental law, as well as give environmental considerations more weight in policy decisions.

Mr Schröder also promised to introduce new rights allowing NGOs to legally challenge planning projects, such as roads or buildings, if they think environmental legislation is breached. Commentators say this would also ease the way for Germany to sign up to a European convention on public participation in environmental decision-making decided at Århus, Denmark earlier this year (ENDS Daily 25 June).

Mr Schröder talked at length about his government's controversial plans to reduce Germany's use of nuclear power and green its tax system. He said nuclear power was "not sensible" economically and looked forward to its "gradual reduction". In an echo of comments made last week by environment minister Jürgen Trittin (ENDS Daily 6 November), he said the government would develop a new national strategy for dealing with nuclear waste. However, existing contracts with reprocessors in France and the UK would be honoured, he said. Coal would continue to play a role in future energy policy, he added.

Mr Schröder said he was following the lead of countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria by introducing higher energy taxes and using the money to cut payroll costs (ENDS Daily 10 November). However, he said Germany could not develop this ecological tax reform any further without an EU-wide approach.

The new chancellor did not refer to all the environmental policies agreed between the Social Democratic and Green parties during their coalition negotiations. These include the development of a national sustainable development strategy with concrete goals, and a continuing use of voluntary agreements with industry groups.

The red/green government also plans to review the existing "green dot" packaging waste management system, as well as current waste legislation. A "meaningful" use of old cars and electrical and electronic waste is to be developed. The coalition document also states that the current nature protection law will be amended, and a "100,000 roof" programme to develop solar energy will be introduced.

Follow Up:
German environment ministry, tel: +49 228 3050. Mr Schröder's speech is available from the SPD.

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