Research and development project agri-environmental law:
Legal and other instruments for better protection of the environment in the agricultural sector
This study investigated how national environmental and agricultural law could be used to a greater extent than thus far to steer development towards sustainable eco-and-climate-friendly agricultural practices. The aim was to analyse existing legal instruments and identify potential ways of improving them with a view to achieving society’s environmental objectives and eliminating the environmental threats posed by agriculture in Germany today and those expected to arise in the future.
As required by the UBA’s terms of reference, the study focused on the form and enforcement of national regulatory and planning law, particularly in the area of agriculturally relevant environmental law and environmentally relevant agricultural law – jointly referred to in the study as "agri environmental law". Requirements and premises under European law were also addressed. Whilst the study touched on other instruments such as European and national subsidy law and advice schemes, these were not analysed in the same depth. The UBA refrained from asking for an analysis of taxation and duty instruments, given that such analyses were already being conducted separately by the UFZ. That this study was conducted at the same time as debate about revision and greening of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy was not simply a coincidence: the study report was in fact intended to set out the importance and potential of regulatory and planning law as an essential accompaniment to agricultural subsidies, as only through an effective combination of the various policy instruments can an eco-friendly system of agriculture be established and secured in the long term.
The study is divided into four parts:
Part 1 gives a statistics-based description of the development of agriculture in Germany over the last few decades in order to highlight the ecologically relevant intensification trends.
In Part 2, the UFZ provides an extensive analysis of existing national and European regulatory and planning law, including the cross-compliance requirements under the law on subsidies, in the light of society's environmental objectives and the environmental threats currently posed by agriculture. As law is only as good as its enforcement, it also evaluates the enforcement action taken by authorities, based on an analysis of evidence gathered from the literature and the case law in the JURIS database, and assesses the enforceability of the rules in the light of S.M.A.R.T. management criteria. It also examines the mechanisms for enforcement provided for in the legislation.
Based on this analysis, Part 3 investigates the potential for optimising the scheme of instruments and enforceability with a view to enhancing environmental protection in the agricultural sector. This investigation focuses on three types of instrument: regulatory management standards, planning instruments and regulatory enforcement instruments. It also looks at whether the rules of agri environmental law, which are currently dispersed over various different pieces of legislation, should be consolidated in a single agri-environmental statute.
Finally, in Part 4, the IfLS assesses, with the help of information gathered in an expert survey, the proposed improvements to the legal instruments. Since the respective advantages and disadvantages of each instrument can only be ascertained by comparing it with other instruments, two alternative instruments – advice and rewards for ecological achievements – are presented.
Dr. Stefan Möckel
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)