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Summary Report No. 42


Reversing Course: Germany’s Response to the Challenge of Transboundary Air Pollution

D. F. Sprinz, A. Wahl (March 1998)

Perhaps like no other country, Germany has radically changed its policies towards regulating air pollution in the European context. Acting originally as a dragger in the 1970s to regulate transboundary air pollutants due to pessimism about the relationship between causes and effects, Germany responded very decisively to its own damage assessment in the early 1980s. In particular the adverse effects to forests ("Waldsterben" or forest decline) led to the formulation of strict air pollution regulations in the domestic context, efforts to spread the regulatory system within the European Union, and activities within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to foster stronger, continent-wide emission reductions. Using three conceptual models (rational actor, domestic politics, and social learning), we show that Germany deviated strongly from the ideal policy cycle consisting of (i) domestic policy formulation, (ii) international negotiations, as well as (iii) implementation and compliance with the provisions of international environmental agreements. Both national policy-making as well as partial implementation have been well on the way towards compliance even before Germany entered international negotiations on substantive protocols. Therefore, one may conclude from this country study that push countries may use the results of their national policy processes to influence the policy of other countries.

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