German government adopts first nationwide climate adaptation law

Stadtviertel mit viel sonniger Grünfläche aus Vogelperspektive
The law creates the first strategic framework for precautionary climate adaptation on all administrative levels in Germany.

Today, the German government adopted the draft of the climate adaptation law submitted by the Federal Environment Ministry. The law creates the first strategic framework for precautionary climate adaptation on all administrative levels in Germany. Cities and municipalities have a special responsibility when it comes to taking specific precautionary measures to tackle the impacts of the climate crisis. This draft law is therefore intended to task the Länder with ensuring systematic and comprehensive climate adaptation strategies on their administrative level as well as climate adaptation concepts for areas of municipalities and districts. With the law, the German government also commits to pursuing a precautionary climate adaptation strategy with measurable goals in future.

Federal Minister for the Environment Steffi Lemke remarked: “Global warming is already causing enormous damage in Germany and Europe. Heat and drought, heavy rain and floods – weather extremes will become more frequent in future and compel us to take precautionary measures and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. For this reason, the German government has adopted the first nationwide climate adaptation law. It creates the first-ever binding framework for the federal government, the Länder and the municipalities. With local risk analyses and adaptation plans, we are readying ourselves for climate change and ensuring better protection of our population, for example through strategies for cooler cities and more shade. Risk prevention that looks farther into the future than before will not only enable us to mitigate damage, it will also significantly improve the quality of life in both cities and rural areas.”

The new climate adaptation law defines the strategic framework for future climate adaptation at federal, state and local levels. This framework is designed to coordinate all climate adaptation efforts on all levels and to make progress across all fields of action. The aim is to develop climate adaptation concepts at all levels of government in future in order to take the necessary steps towards effective precautionary climate adaptation nationwide in Germany by systematically conducting an impact analysis and planning appropriate measures.

The new climate adaptation law is primarily characterised by three core elements:

Stronger climate adaptation at local level: For effective precautionary measures, comprehensive adaptation concepts and action plans based on risk analyses need to be drawn up, particularly at local level. The climate adaptation law therefore tasks the Länder with (1) presenting and implementing their own climate adaptation strategies, (2) ensuring that local climate adaptation concepts are drawn up on the basis of risk analyses – referencing areas of municipalities and districts – and (3) reporting to the federal government on how many municipalities and districts have these concepts in place. The Länder have a lot of scope for designing the climate adaptation concepts at local level and can, for example, stipulate that they only be drawn up for areas of municipalities above a certain population threshold.

Precautionary federal climate adaptation strategy: The German government will be required by law to present a precautionary federal climate adaptation strategy with measurable targets. The strategy will be regularly updated and implemented on an ongoing basis, thereby further developing the existing German Adaptation Strategy. In future, specific and measurable targets will make it possible to align measures and instruments more closely with goals. This will make climate adaptation policy more effective. The targets will not be enshrined in law, but developed in a separate strategy process. The public, the Länder and associations will be involved in the development process. The plan is for the first climate adaptation strategy in its new form to be adopted by the German government before the end of 2024, even though, legally speaking, there would be time until the end of the legislative period.

Consideration requirement: As additional instruments for stronger climate adaptation in Germany, the draft law requires public bodies to incorporate the goal of climate adaptation into their planning and decision-making in an interdisciplinary and integrated process.  Within the scope of measures in their area of responsibility, public bodies are also expected to work towards restoring the natural functional capacity of the soil and unsealing it to a necessary and reasonable extent on land that is no longer required to be sealed for use.

Parallel to the legislative process for the climate adaptation law and the development of the climate adaptation strategy, the German federal and Länder governments are discussing at the Conference of Environment Ministers (UMK) how long-term, reliable financing of climate adaptation measures could be structured.

In addition to the law, the Federal Environment Ministry will continue to support the Länder and municipalities in drawing up climate adaptation strategies through its own funding programmes and the Zentrum KlimaAnpassung (ZKA). The funding guideline “Promoting measures for adaptation to the impacts of climate change” is intended to specifically advance strategic management of sustainable adaptation to climate change in municipalities by means of sustainable municipal adaptation strategies. Among other things, this programme promotes the deployment of climate adaptation managers. With the funding guideline “Climate change adaptation in social institutions (AnpaSo)”, the Federal Environment Ministry also sets an example for alleviating acute climate pressures in social institutions and preparing them for future climate change.

The Ministry will also contribute its experience with the adaptation law to international climate adaptation processes and welcomes dialogue with other countries, also with a view to further developing the law. The essential elements of the law will also be taken into account in international cooperation projects, e.g. under the International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Following the Cabinet’s decision, the draft climate adaptation law will next be submitted to the Bundesrat and the Bundestag for referral and adoption.

13.07.2023 | Press release No. 114/23 | Climate adaptation
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