13 Jul 2023, 13:38
Carolina Kyllmann

Germany to make climate adaptation legally binding as municipalities call for better financing

Germany’s environment minister Steffi Lemke aims to better prepare cities and municipalities for the consequences of climate change with a national climate adaptation law, as many are unprepared to deal with increasing and more extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts, floods and heavy rain. A draft bill by her ministry, now adopted in cabinet, will require the government to present a strategy by 30 September 2025 with clear and binding targets to deal with the effects and risks of climate change and update it every four years. Municipalities will also be bound to draw up local risk analyses and adaptation plans, for example through strategies for more shading and cooling of urban areas. However, a survey by media organisations NDR, BR, WDR and Correctiv found that, while the vast majority (96%) of municipalities expect to be more affected by extreme weather events by 2050, around half say they will not be able to finance necessary response measures.

An NGO alliance has in the past called for a reform of Germany’s Basic Law (constitution) to guarantee more financial support to implement climate protection measures in municipalities. This would oblige the federal government to co-finance adaptation measures instead of just setting targets. While the government is in talks with state climate ministers, there is no agreement on long-term financing yet and Lemke does not expect it to happen during this legislative period, the Green Party politician told broadcaster rbb.

Germany has had an adaptation strategy in place since 2008, yet the measures have remained mostly voluntary. Some federal states, such as North Rhine-Westphalia, which was hit by deadly floods in 2021, have anchored climate adaptation into their own climate action law at the state level. According to the media survey, around a quarter of Germany’s districts have adaptation concepts detailing climate risks and adaptation strategies, while a further fifth has a concept in the works. “With risk prevention that looks further into the future than before, we can not only mitigate damage but also significantly improve the quality of life in urban and rural areas,” Lemke said as the cabinet adopted the climate adaptation bill.

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