Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG)

In environmental law, the need for a case brought by an association is particularly obvious. Often it is not an individual person who’s rights have been violated. If, for example, a motorway is to be built through a nature conservation area, this affects the nature itself, which cannot file a legal complaint.

Therefore, recognized nature conservation associations can bring violations of the Nature Conservation Act to court (see § 64 BNatSchG). 

The regulations have been greatly extended by the so-called Aarhus Convention. Environmental associations may now complain if, for example, the mandatory  environmental impact assessment has not been carried out properly or has not been carried out correctly in the construction of industrial plants. (see § 2 German environmental Appeals Act).

The European Court of Justice also reinforced the standing of associations in the legal case C-115/09.  It has clarified that a complaint is possible even if the injured environmental law is "only" intended for the general interest and not for the individual interest of persons.

Click hereto access the European Court of Justices’ judgement.

Object and purpose of the action

Associations with legal standing may bring complaints against decisions without being infringed in their own rights. This is possible in cases involving the drafting of regulations or laws in the field of environmental law or the granting of exemptions from bans and prohibitions for the protection of marine areas (see § 64 BNatSchG).

It is also necessary to provide the relevant associations with the opportunity to comment on and inspect relevant expert opinions in the process of drafting regulations in the field of environmental law.

Qualified organisations

According to the BNatSchG, the right to bring a complaint is only possible for associations recognized by § 3 of the Environmental Appeals Act (UmwRG). Organisations shall therefore:

  • Exist for at least three years
  • Have environmental protection purposes in their statutes which is  not only temporary
  • Provides guarantees for an appropriate performance of its duties
  • And enables everybody to join the association

Click here to find a list of recognized environmental organisations.

Click here to find an evaluation carried out by the German Federal Environment Agency on the use and effect of “Verbandsklagen” under the UmwRG.

© Büro zur Umsetzung von Gleichbehandlung e.V. 2018