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ENVIRONMENT

Germany to ban certain lights at night to save insects

Germany is planning to ban floodlights from dusk for much of the year as part of its bid to fight a dramatic decline in insect populations, it emerged Wednesday.

Germany to ban certain lights at night to save insects
A "green musk deer" (Aromia moschata) crawls on flowers in the Ferbitzer Bruch nature reserve near the village of Kartzow, Brandenburg on July 27th. Photo: DPA

In a draft law seen by AFP, the country's environment ministry has drawn up a number of new measures to protect insects, ranging from partially outlawing spotlights to increased protection of natural habitats.

“Insects play an important role in the ecosystem…but in Germany, their numbers and their diversity has severely declined in recent years,” reads the draft law, for which the ministry hopes to get cabinet approval by October.

READ ALSO: German bug watchers sound alarm to insect apocalypse

The changes put forward in the law include stricter controls on both lighting and the use of insecticides.

Light traps for insects are to be banned outdoors, while searchlights and sky spotlights would be outlawed from dusk to dawn for ten months of the year.

The draft also demands that any new streetlights and other outdoor lights be installed in such a way as to minimise the effect on plants, insects and other animals.

The use of weed-killers and insecticides would also be banned in national parks and within five to ten metres of major bodies of water, while orchards and dry-stone walls are to be protected as natural habitats for insects.

The proposed reforms are part of the German government's more general “insect protection action plan”, which was announced last September under growing pressure from environmental and conservation activists.

Weedkiller

Attention will now turn to the agriculture ministry, which is under pressure to deliver on promises such as an overall reduction in the use of pesticides.

Most notably, Germany said last September that it would phase out the controversial weed killer glyphosate as part of the insect action plan.

On Wednesday, environmentalists welcomed the draft law but urged further action from the agriculture ministry.

“We will not stop insect decline with tinkering alone,” said Rolf Sommer, a director at the German chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

A bee spotted in summer 2019 in Hesse. Photo: DPA

The environment ministry's proposals were “a starting block for more insect protection”, but more reforms were needed to pesticide regulations he added.

The German Nature Conservation Association (DNR) meanwhile called on agriculture minister Julia Klöckner to “do her homework” and deliver on the promise to phase out glyphosate by 2023.

In the past year, Germany has repeatedly made headlines with its efforts to protect insects.

Last April, the state government of Bavaria was caught off guard by a wildly popular petition calling for greater protection of bees.

READ ALSO: Germany to transform landmark 'Save the bees' petition into law

Rather than putting the petition to a referendum, the state simply passed it straight into law after 1.75 million people signed it in a matter of months.

Earlier this year, electric car giant Tesla faced delays to the construction of its new “gigafactory” outside Berlin due to the relocation of several ant colonies away from the building site.

By Kit Holden

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

READ ALSO: 

On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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