Former Colleagues

Department for Environmental and Planning Law
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig
+49 341 6025 1232

Website UFZ Wolfgang Köck

Wolfgang Köck is a distinguished member of the Advisory Council on the Environment of the Federal Government of Germany (SRU). Since 2001, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Köck has served as Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Leipzig's Faculty of Law. He also led the Department of Environmental and Planning Law at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ in Leipzig from 2004 to 2024. His research encompasses European and national environmental law, with particular expertise in water legislation, nature conservation, immission control, and hazardous substances. In planning law, his focus includes regional planning, urban land use, and infrastructure planning. Additionally, Prof. Köck has extensive experience in legal issues related to energy, agriculture, and the environment. He is Co-Chief Editor of the Zeitschrift für Umweltrecht (Journal of Environmental Law, ZUR) and has served as joint managing editor since 2003. He also sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal for European Environmental and Planning Law (JEEPL) and the Management Board of the European Environmental Law Forum (EELF).

Department of Conservation Biology & Social-Ecological Systems
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig
+49 341 6025 2438

Website UFZ Dr. Elisabeth Veronika Henn

Elisabeth Henn is a post-doctoral researcher at the UFZ and was coordinator of the Network of Competence on Future Challenges of Environmental Law (2019-2023). Her working areas are international, European and German environmental law, international law and human rights law. She focuses on food security and biodiversity, soil, forest and water law and access to justice.
Before joining the UFZ, Elisabeth was a lawyer in public law with a focus on planning and environmental law. She wrote her prize-awared PhD thesis in international law. She was a teaching and research associate to Prof. Andreas Zimmermann (University of Potsdam, Germany) and a member of the Center for Research at The Hague Academy for International Law (Netherlands). She worked as a legal trainee at the Directorate for Legal Advice and Public International Law of the Council of Europe in Strasburg (France) and was a visiting researcher at the European University Institute in Florence (Italy). During her legal studies, she was a research assistant both, to Prof. Ralf Poscher (Albrechts-Ludwig-University Frei-burg) and at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (Germany).


De-Extinction technologies in European Union Law. Reflections on the innovation and the precautionary principle

The interdisciplinary research project examines reproductive technologies for the protection of biodiversity from the perspective of EU environmental law and is at the same time a contribution to the innovation and precautionary principle. De-extinction refers to the process of creating an organism as a functional equivalent of an extinct species through biotechnological processes. This “proxy” shall subsequently be released into the environment with a view to achieving conservation benefits by restoring certain ecological functions and processes, that have been lost through the original species’ extinction. De-Extinction thus reveals itself to be an innovative approach to combatting the loss of biodiversity through the deliberate manipulation of the environment. De-Extinction does not only illustrate the far-reaching human possibilities as a result of technical innovations, but also emphasises the role assigned to humanity in the geological age of the Anthropocene. While technological progress is generally considered to be destructive to nature and the environment, in the Anthropocene, innovative technologies however depict an opportunity. This raises new perspectives and questions, particularly in law, regarding the opportunities of De-Extinction, taking into account the associated risks. Against this background, the research project examines whether proactive nature conservation measures, which are aimed at the technical manipulation of the environment, fit into the contemporary EU environmental law framework, and which legal obligations, regulatory obstacles and challenges arise for De-Extinction efforts.


Soil Protection through International Environmental Law

The natural environment (as well as its destruction) knows no man-made boundaries. This statement is as much a platitude as it is true and relevant. Looking at the ‘classic‘ global environmental problems of our time (keyword: ’Anthropocene‘), amongst them especially climate change and biodiversity loss, their cross-spatial dimensions become quite obvious. Hence, international efforts to organise joint countermeasures have made comparatively good progress in these areas—at least on paper. In contrast, the protection of immobile natural bodies and specific environmental areas is clearly underdeveloped at the supra-state level. One reason for this is their usual (rather short-sighted) classification as a purely local matter due to the mere fact that they are bound to a particular location. Juridically, however, their main problem lies in the fundamental principle of (territorial) sovereignty, according to which the individual state has both exclusive power of disposal over its ‘own‘ environment and legal autonomy in external relations. Soil is the most visual example of this principle, because soil is not only situated within a certain state, but it rather provides its physical foundation thus being the very embodiment of territoriality. Especially in the context of national economy, soil is considered a sacrosanct state domain, as many soil functions are attributed a high monetary value. From an environmental law perspective, however, the linkage between the state and soil presents various problems. This dissertation project therefore investigates the question of whether an international soil protection regime is necessary for ecological and structural reasons, on the one hand, and justified by the spatial scale, on the other hand. Against the backdrop of the deficiencies of binding soil protection standards under current international environmental law, possibilities and limits de lege ferenda are then explored, mainly in the light of the aforementioned principle of sovereignty in its territorial manifestations.

The European Union’s responsibility to regulate extraterritorial investments in agricultural land for environmental conservation purposes

Large-scale transboundary investments in agricultural land are globally on the rise. This development increasingly encroaches on human rights and the environment, especially in low-income countries. Investors gain control over large areas of farmland through purchase or long-term lease. This ensures a.e. the production of food and access to water and other resources. In addition, the land serves as object for investment and speculation. This approach is critically being referred to as ‘land grabbing’, as local land users often face displacement or lose access to land and resources. Moreover, the investment processes frequently result in massive environmental destruction as small-scale agriculture is replaced by large agri-businesses. Adverse effects are amplified by the fact that investments in agricultural land are generally considered necessary to fight hunger and poverty and to ensure food security for the growing world population. Accordingly, direct investments in agricultural land need to be controlled, so the rights of local land users are safeguarded and the environment is protected.

Currently, transboundary investments in agricultural land are not sufficiently regulated. National law in the host countries is not effectively implemented, transnational regulatory approaches are only just emerging and comprehensive regulations on the part of the home states of investors are missing. As a result, the people and the environment in investment areas are left mostly without legal protection.

The EU can and should regulate foreign direct investments of its economic agents to prevent land grabbing in non-EU countries. The objective of my study is to provide a normative justification why the EU should take responsibility for the extraterritorial effects of large-scale investments in agricultural land. It will be further analysed, whether an EU regulation would be in conformity with international and EU primary law how it should be designed with regards to content, and which entities it should.

Fundamentals of Environmental Law

The Preliminary Reference Procedure under Art. 267 TFEU in Environmental Law

The dissertation project addresses the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) preliminary ruling procedure under Article 267 TFEU. In the past, European institutions have repeatedly referred to the preliminary ruling procedure as the main vehicle of the European legal protection system; it aims to ensure the uniform interpretation and effective application of EU environmental regulations in the legal systems of Member States. By means of reference procedures from the field of environmental law, it will be worked out how the reference mechanism mediates between the legal systems of the EU and its Member States, and why this type of procedure is of particular importance for environmental law. The core of this mechanism is the dialogue between the ECJ and the national courts. This dialogue requires a cooperative relationship between the interacting actors. Yet it also causes tensions, since the courts and the ECJ must reconcile the European and national interests and perspectives in the further development of Union law. The project therefore examines how the preliminary ruling procedure is used in practice, and how the actors are motivated when submitting a preliminary reference request, refraining from doing so or following up on received responses. The study of the functioning of the legal protection by dint of Art. 267 TFEU then leads to an enhanced understanding of the preliminary ruling procedure and its conceptualization.

Rights of Nature

In the 1970s, Christopher Stone surprised the world (of legal sciences) with a fundamentally new concept: the recognition of rights of nature. Today, rights of nature are recognized in 23 countries, either at the national or local level. The reason for this development is often the influence of indigenous communities, as in the case of Ecuador, which was the first country to recognize rights of nature in 2008. Rights of nature are implemented in different ways, as the following examples show: recognized are rights for ’Nature‘ as a hole or for parts of nature represented by everyone or by determined trustees via the law or courts.

The thesis will analyse two questions especially:

Is there an added value to the rights-of-nature approach compared to current European and German environmental law, and if so, what is the added value of that approach? Three areas will be examined with regard to the possible added value of rights of nature. Firstly, the connection between transformation and law, specifically rights, is analysed. Secondly, substantive law is examined. The scope and status of regulations aiming at the protection of nature is compared to the scope and status of the rights of nature. The effects of potential differences, for example, regarding a conflict of interests is further analysed. In addition, how both systems regulate environmental damages and the compensation for violations of environmental standards or rights of nature respectively is compared. Thirdly, procedural law is examined. The individuals and environmental organisations’ rights of action are compared with the rights of actions of nature.

How can rights of nature be implemented? The possibility of a recognition by European, national or local law as well as a by courts through the interpretation of existing law is illuminated.

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption

Forstrecht auf dem Prüfstand: Nachhaltige Waldbewirtschaftung unter Bedingungen des Klimawandels

Wälder leisten sowohl im Hinblick auf Klimaschutz als auch im Hinblick auf Klimaanpassung einen relevanten Beitrag, den es gemäß Bundeswaldgesetz nachhaltig zu sichern gilt. Angesichts des Ausmaßes der gegenwärtigen Waldschadenssituation, widmet sich das vorliegende Dissertationsvorhaben der Frage, wie dem gesetzgeberischen Auftrag auch unter Bedingungen des Klimawandels auf angemessene Weise entsprochen werden kann. Die Untersuchung geht dabei von der Grundannahme aus, dass es hierzu eines adaptiven Waldbewirtschaftungsrechts bedarf, das Elemente eines konsistenten Risikomanagements innerhalb des forstrechtlichen Instrumentariums verankert und diesem eine insgesamt stärker "risikoverwaltungsrechtliche Ausrichtung" gibt. Der Fokus der vorliegenden Untersuchung liegt damit weniger auf der Mitigationsebene und der rechtlichen Rahmung einer klimaneutralen Waldentwicklung, als vielmehr auf der Anpassungsebene und damit auf Gewährleistung und Durchsetzung einer klimaresilienten Waldentwicklung.

Der erste Teil der Arbeit dient der Bestimmung des tatsächlichen Handlungsbedarfs. In diesem Zusammenhang wird der Frage nachgegangen, was unter dem "bewährten" Leitprinzip einer multifunktionalen, integrativen und nachhaltigen Waldbewirtschaftung zu verstehen ist, mit welchen Zielfkonflikten diese einher geht und welchen klimawandelbedingten Herausforderungen sich diese gegenüber sieht. Der zweite Teil der Untersuchung hat den rechtlichen Modifikationsbedarf zum Gegenstand. Die bislang zurückhaltende Ausgestaltung von Nutzungsregeln und Nutzungskonzepten ist mit auf die Annahme zurück zu führen, eine nachhaltige Waldentwicklung liege im ureigenen Interesse und freiheitlichen Verantwortungsbereich der WaldeigentümerInnen. Dies mag im Hinblick auf die Verstetigung der Rohstoffproduktion sicherlich zutreffend sein, aber nicht gleichermaßen für die Sicherung der Biodiversität als Grundvoraussetzung für die Selbstregulationsfähigkeit von Waldökosystemen gelten. In jedem Fall aber hat diese Annahme zu einer jüngst konstatierten "normativen Unterversorgung" im Bereich des Forstrechts geführt, die es unter Bedingungen des Klimawandels zu beheben gilt.

Ziele und Instrumente der deutschen Klimaschutzrahmengesetzgebung

Eine Analyse unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der spezifischen völkerrechtlichen, europäischen und verfassungsrechtlichen Anforderungen sowie der vertikalen Lastenverteilung im Bundesstaat

Dr. Lena Kohlrausch' research was published in early December 2023 in the publication series "Leipziger Schriften zum Umwelt- und Planungsrecht" by Nomos-Verlag.

Rechtliche Anforderungen an die Modelle einer nationalen Bepreisung von Treibhausgasen in den USA und Deutschland

Der menschgemachte Klimawandel ist ein zentrales Problem der Gegenwart, das die vollständige Reduzierung der Treibhausgasemissionen in naher Zukunft verlangt. In der Rechtswissenschaft ist nun schon seit längerem anerkannt, dass ökonomische Instrumente des Umweltschutzes hierzu ein Mittel darstellen, auf dessen Grundlage weitere Klimaschutzmaßnahmen ergriffen werden können. Damit diese Instrumente allerdings erfolgreich sind, müssen sie rechtskonform umgesetzt werden, um den Betroffenen Planungssicherheit zu bieten und positiv angenommen zu werden. Jüngst beziehen sich die Vorschläge zur Implementation von Bepreisungsinstrumenten nicht mehr nur auf eine reine Übernahme der grundlegenden ökonomischen Vorschläge, sondern sehen hybride Systeme vor, die Ausgestaltungsoptionen aus den verschiedenen Instrumenten kombinieren. Die Arbeit soll deshalb nicht nur die hergebrachten Modelle einer Umweltabgabe und eines Emissionszertifikatehandels, sondern auch die verschiedenen Kombinationsmöglichkeiten untersuchen, um Empfehlungen zur Wahl von Bepreisungsinstrumenten und ihrer rechtssicheren Ausgestaltung geben zu können. Die Arbeit nimmt dabei das bestehende Instrumentarium in den USA und dem unionsrechtlich geprägten Deutschland in den Blick, um die verschiedenen Ausgestaltungsoptionen herauszuarbeiten. Dieser rechtsvergleichende Ansatz ermöglicht auch die Untersuchung, ob eine einheitliche Modellempfehlung für die Länder abgegeben werden kann, oder ob die Instrumentenwahl aufgrund der unterschiedlichen rechtlichen Anforderungen in den Rechtssystemen und –ordnungen unterschiedlich ausfallen muss.

Circular Economy

Vermeidung von Einwegkunststoffartikeln im Recht der Kreislaufwirtschaft
Eine Untersuchung aus unionsrechtlicher und rechtsvergleichender Perspektive (Deutschland – Frankreich)

Dr. Janna Ringena' research was published in 2024 in the publication series "Umweltrechtliche Studien – Studies on Environmental Law" of Nomos-Verlag.

Regulierte Selbstregulierung und hybride Rechtsdurchsetzung

Die Entwicklung der Zentralen Stelle im Verpackungsrecht

Dr. Lukas Preiß' research was published in 2024 in the series "Product Compliance" (Volume 1) by Nomos-Verlag.


Noise Action Planning on the Road to Success? Opportunities and Problems of Noise Action Planning in the Implementation of Directive 2002/49/EG in Germany

Noise is a major environmental problem in Europe. A high noise threshold has in the long term a significant impact on health. To achieve a high level of health and environmental protection, the Environmental Noise Directive obligates EU Member States to ensure that the competent authorities produce strategic noise maps to elucidate the noise situation and draw up noise action plans to manage the noise issues within their territories.

In Germany, the local authorities are generally responsible for producing strategic noise maps and noise action plans. German federal states are authorized to define different jurisdictions for their area. Some federal states also establish further regulations to concretize the procedure.

My research focuses on the effectiveness of environmental noise planning in Germany based on the third round of noise action planning (deadline: 18 July 2018). Noise action plans from various German federal states are analysed to unpack practical implementation. It should be discussed, if the Environmental Noise Directive and its implementation reaches its goals. If not, I want to suggest how federal, national or European law should be changed to put noise action planning on a road to success.


Der wasserrechtliche Vollzug im Dilemma zwischen Einheit und Vielfalt - Zulässigkeit und Grenzen unterschiedlicher Vollzugsniveaus bei der Ausführung der Wasserrahmenrichtlinie

Dr. Lena Vitt' research was published in 2023 in the publication series "Das Recht der Wasser- und Entsorgungswirtschaft" of Carl Heymanns-Verlag.

Die EU-Verordnung über die Wasserwiederverwendung (WWVO) und deren Integration in das deutsche und schwedische Recht

Ein Beitrag zu einem hohen Umweltschutzniveau und einer integrierten Wasserbewirtschaftung?

Ms. Linda Schönfelder' research will be published in Juni 2024 in the publication series "Leipziger Schriften zum Umwelt- und Planungsrecht" of Nomos-Verlag.