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Citizen Participation

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) is an innovative pioneer of citizen participation in environmental decision-making processes at national level.

The BMU citizen participation instruments to facilitate sound decisions, communication with society and participation.

"Great transformation", ecological structural change, sustainable development as a guiding principle – comprehensive modernisation requires broad communication and the involvement of citizens.

Participation procedures, environmental education, environmental communication and social policy strategies are geared to involving citizens and strengthening their role as strategic partners in the intended transformation.

Administrative modernisation has been a priority in the last legislative term. In this context, citizen participation has become a tried and tested tool of the BMU for developing a new participatory culture for important political projects.

Citizen participation processes

The first competition "Ausgezeichnet! Vorbildliche Bürgerbeteiligung" with an innovation prize, online participation and a public jury

The innovative competition "Ausgezeichnet! Vorbildliche Bürgerbeteiligung" on model citizen participation aims to help enhance the transparency and quality of participation processes. This applies not only to citizen participation in planning infrastructure projects and in political strategies and programmes; it also applies to legislation for the first time. A special prize will be awarded to a citizen participation process that is particularly innovative. The aim of the competition is to identify model processes throughout Germany and to award prizes, thus raising the profiles of these processes. Members of the public themselves can nominate participation projects. As further proof of innovation, the jury of experts will be supported by a jury of selected members of the public. Three people are chosen for this in a special process, starting with a random sample. A further innovative element is the online assessment of projects. The public can assess the nominated projects online. The prizes will be awarded at a major expert conference aimed at giving room to new developments, trends and experience in citizen participation and providing an opportunity to learn from one another. The competition and a concluding event will promote exchanges on factors for the success of constructive citizen participation. The outcomes of this competition will be made available online.

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Design of an online participation platform

The call for comprehensive involvement of citizens from an early stage in environmental, building and urban development policy processes – in addition to legally prescribed citizen participation – is becoming increasingly loud. Transparency and openness are part of modern governance. A current research project running until November 2019 aims to provide systematic information to the public about the Federal Environment Ministry’s participation processes. This will facilitate improved direct participation by using an innovative new online tool designed for this purpose.

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"Our Climate! Our Future!" – Youth dialogue for COP 23

The youth dialogue "Our Climate! Our Future!" was initiated by the German Environment Ministry (BMU) in the run-up to the climate summit (COP 23) in Bonn. Its main element was three simultaneous youth dialogue events in Bochum, Nuremberg and Eberswalde. A total of around 200 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 came together at the invitation of the BMU to discuss climate change. Topics included better involvement of young people in climate policy and their ideas for addressing the consequences of climate change.

A number of participants were selected at all three workshops to act as youth ambassadors and summarise the outcomes of the events in the youth report "Our Climate! Our Future!". The report contains the main recommendations and findings from the dialogue events and will serve as a basis for integrating the perspective of young people into German climate policy. In addition, the report was also presented by a group of youth ambassadors at COP 23 to raise awareness of young people’s views among delegates and other decision-makers.

Nine recommendations for action on citizen participation in planning large environmentally relevant projects

The research project "Participation processes for large environmentally relevant projects" provides nine insightful recommendations on how to shape citizen participation for large environmentally relevant projects. This research project was commissioned by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) and carried out by the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) from December 2014 to January 2017. The recommendations made are based on an analysis of selected participation processes for large-scale projects. The interim results were discussed at two expert meetings with participants from the scientific community, associations and authorities. It is recommended, for example, that informal citizen participation should be established at an earlier stage and in a more binding way, and that it should be managed professionally. Further recommendations are that citizen participation needs a structure and strategy, and that an exchange is required between project developers, authorisation authorities, interest groups and the public. A new culture of dialogue and communication is also essential.

The findings of the study were presented and discussed on 25 January 2017 at a large-scale event with around 150 participants from the scientific community, associations, industry, administrations and policymaking (federation, Länder, local authorities).

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New online dialogue on the white paper "Green Space in the City"

Under the lead responsibility of the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU), a green paper on urban green spaces was drawn up which presented a vision for liveable cities in the future, analysing the functional diversity of urban green spaces and drawing attention to green spaces as a joint field of action for many players. Based on this, a white paper including recommendations for action and strategies for urban green areas was developed in a process involving the public. The draft white paper was made available on the Web as the basis for an online dialogue from 2 to 23 December 2016. Parallel to this dialogue, projects and activities were carried out at scientific institutions. The white paper on urban green spaces was presented by former Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks at the 2nd Federal Congress "Green Space in the City – For a Liveable Future" in Essen on 8 May 2017.

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Innovative dialogue on the Climate Action Plan 2050

Successful climate action needs the backing of society. This is why the German government initiated a broad participation process to accompany the development of the Climate Action Plan 2050. In addition to exchanges with associations, municipalities and the German Länder, the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) also organised a dialogue process for citizens. The last meeting of the committee involving delegates from all these groups was held on 27 January 2017. This meeting served to present the contents of the Climate Action Plan 2050 as adopted by the Federal Cabinet on 14 November 2016. The Federal Environment Ministry will continue to base its climate policy on a broad participation and dialogue process. Lessons to be learned from the citizen participation process on the Climate Action Plan 2050, which began in 2015, were discussed with former Minister Hendricks at the concluding meeting of the participation process in Berlin on 16 February 2017.

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Unique participation process in the search for a disposal site for radioactive waste

The amended Repository Site Selection Act (StandAG) prescribes numerous innovative regulations on public participation in order to achieve the goal of a participatory process for the site selection. For example, a National Monitoring Panel was set up comprising well-known public figures (chosen by the German Bundestag and Bundesrat) and three members of the public nominated in a procedure developed specifically for this purpose. The National Monitoring Panel’s task is to accompany the site selection process, in particular public participation, in a mediating and independent way in order to create trust in the process. It can pose questions to the institutions involved whenever it wishes, present opinions and submit further recommendations on the site selection process to the German Bundestag. The selection of the three members of the public for the National Monitoring Panel was carried out in several phases: At the end of October 2016, five public forums were held, each with around 24 participants. One of these exclusively comprised representatives of the young generation (16 to 27 year-olds). During these public forums, the participants drew up recommendations for the work of the public representatives on the panel and chose six representatives for the advisory network. This advisory network, with 30 members, met on 5 and 6 November 2016, pooled the recommendations from the forums in a joint paper of recommendations and chose three representatives from this group that were then appointed members of the National Monitoring Panel by former Federal Environment Minister Hendricks on 9 November 2016.

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A novel kind of citizens' dialogue on the Integrated Environmental Programme 2030

Citizens were intensively involved in the drafting of the Integrated Environmental Programme 2030. In an innovative approach, the discussions and outcomes of the citizen participation process were included as a separate chapter in the final report. The report was presented to former Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks during the Festival of the Future on 10 September 2016. A concluding workshop with citizens was held on 12 May 2017.

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New global dialogue on the international climate negotiations at COP 21 in 2015

10,000 citizens from 76 countries around the world discussed key questions related to climate change and future energy supply on 6 June 2015. These questions were also at the heart of the international climate negotiations held at COP 21 in Paris in November of the same year. As part of the global dialogue, a dialogue with 71 randomly selected citizens took place on the same day in Berlin. This national dialogue had been commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU). A summary of the discussion and voting results of the "World Wide Views on Climate and Energy" initiative was presented to the COP 21 delegates.

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Innovative citizens’ dialogue on ProgRess II

In preparation of ProgRess II, participation took place under the heading of "GesprächStoff: Ressourcenschonend leben" and consisted of five public workshops and an online dialogue on resource-efficient lifestyles. Public ambassadors representing the participants in the workshops and online dialogue compiled twelve recommendations for action representing the key outcomes of the dialogue process.

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