The History of the Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment
Almost half a century of conserving our natural resources: the Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment
“Those who try to protect endangered nature are considered harmless lunatics, who, at best, are not taken seriously.”?
Until the end of the 1960s, this attitude was firmly rooted among much of the population. Environmental damage was perceived as an inevitable side effect of the economic upturn. As recently as 1970, 90 percent of those living in Bavaria believed that the air quality could not be improved again. At the same time, however, the first countercurrents had already emerged. Serious problems were becoming all too obvious, such as fish deaths in the Rhine or the death of the forest. Catastrophes such as the Seveso 1976 industrial accident, one of the worst environmental disasters ever to occur in Europe, acted as driving forces in the move towards awareness.
1970: The Bavarian Ministry for the Environment is founded
Bavaria was the first of the German federal states to recognise the particular importance of protecting the environment. On December 8th 1970, the Bavarian State Parliament took the decision to found the Bavarian State Ministry for Environmental Issues and Regional Development. This was the first ever Ministry for the Environment- not only in Germany, but also in Europe and in the world. The then Prime Minister of Bavaria, Dr. Alfons Goppel, made a statement at the time that still rings true today: "The threat to our natural resources due to the increasing role of technology in the world and the uncontrolled selfishness of various individuals makes it impossible for the Ministries to continue to perceive environmental protection as a collection of various separate elements”?. It was necessary to group all of the aspects of environmental protection together under one responsible Ministry, since only by doing do could the State ensure that its efforts to care for the environment would reach their full potential.
The pioneering role of Bavaria in protecting the environment
Bavaria’s pioneering role in the area of environmental protection was not restricted to the founding of the Ministry for the Environment. The Free State of Bavaria has also been a trailblazer with regard to passing environmental legislation and setting environmental standards. The 1973 Bavarian Nature Conservation Act (Naturschutzgesetz) was the most progressive nature conservation law in Europe of its time. The first Environmental Protection Programme was drafted in 1974 and subsequently updated every four years. The fully automatic air quality monitoring system for the State of Bavaria was launched in the same year, making Bavaria the first state to continuously monitor air pollutants. In 1978, the state launched the world’s first nuclear reactor remote monitoring system.
1984: Environmental protection achieves constitutional status
1984 was a milestone year in Bavarian politics: environmental protection was enshrined as a State Objective in the Bavarian Constitution. This meant that the obligation to conserve natural resources achieved constitutional status for the time in Germany. This decision continues to shape environmental protection policy in Bavaria to this very day.
From repair to precaution – new priorities in environmental policy
During the 1980s, Bavaria established new priorities in its environmental policy. During the first ten years, the emphasis had been on creating the most important organisational and legislative conditions for a modern approach to environmental protection. Now, Bavaria began to focus more on preventive actions. Environmental policy was no longer about protecting individual elements of the environment, but rather centred on protecting the hugely networked ecosystem through the implementation of an overall concept. To this end, in 1982, the Bavarian State Parliament passed the forerunner to the contract-based nature conservation programme that is in place today. The Bavarian Nature Conservation Fund was established shortly afterwards in 1983. The oldest and largest of the German federal nature conservation foundations in terms of funding, it sponsors projects aimed at protecting, maintaining and developing nature and the landscape as well as preserving biodiversity. Last but not least, our 2008 Bavarian Biodiversity Strategy was the first federal strategy of its kind in Germany.
Combating the overexploitation of nature – the challenges we face in the 21st century
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Bavarian Ministry for the Environment, Max Streibl, the first Bavarian State Minister for the Environment, said: “We must not endanger the miracle of our economic and social rise from the rubble of the Second World War through the overexploitation of our natural resources –soil, water and air”?.
This statement has lost none of its relevance to date. Our greatest challenge in the 21st century is to safeguard prosperity and social achievements without destroying our natural resources or the future quality of life of our children and grandchildren.
Climate change and adapting to its inevitable consequences, the future of our energy supply, the preservation of biodiversity and the securing of raw materials and resources all require a concerted effort from all parties involved. We have invested approximately €1 billion in climate protection since 2008 and will have invested a further €1 billion in climate protection, energy transition and innovation by 2016. Around 25 percent of the energy generated in Bavaria today comes from renewable resources. Here too, Bavaria is clearly playing a leading national role.
This spirit of leadership is also reflected in our ambitious climate goals. We are aiming to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions to less than 5 tonnes per inhabitant per year by 2030. We are currently enhancing our climate protection measures to help us achieve this objective with our new “Climate protection Programme 2050”?.
In addition, we are giving our biodiversity protection measures a new impetus with our new “Bavaria 2030”? biodiversity programme and are investing €3 million in a new resource research foundation to research potential for the sustainable protection of our valuable resources and thereby press ahead with Bavarian energy transition.
After all, sustainability is and remains the guiding principle in Bavarian environmental policy – true to its original ideal, which Max Streibl, the first Bavarian State Minister for the Environment described as "… to shape and preserve nature, not to overexploit it, but instead to maintain it for future generations."