Overview and context
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Parliament is the most important organ of the legislative branch. The Federal Council is also involved in the legislative process as an organ through which the sixteen states participate in the legislation of the Federation. For federal laws to pass, they must obtain a majority in both chambers.
The Federal Government introduces most legislation, but the Federal Council and Parliament also have the right to introduce bills. After a first discussion in the Parliament the bill is passed to the Federal Council. A Mediation Committee resolves any differences over legislation between the two legislative chambers. Once the compromise bill that emerges from the Committee has been approved by a majority in both chambers and by the cabinet (comprising the Chancellor and cabinet ministers), it is signed into law by the Chancellor. The most recent election at a federal level was held in 2013 with the next scheduled in 2017.
The German Basic Law assigns no general legislative powers to the federal level in respect of environmental protection. Rather, the respective legislative powers are separated for air pollution control, noise abatement, waste management, nature conservation and water supply. Environmental responsibilities that fall either to a limited extent under these sectoral responsibilities or are not covered by them at all, can under certain circumstances be covered by the legislative power of “law relating to economic affairs”. Legislation on climate change can in part be covered by the legislative area of “air pollution control” but must also be covered by the “law relating to economic affairs”. There is no uniform legislative area of climate change law.