Light pollution – regulations for a reduction of light immissions

Source: Office for technology-assessment at the German Bundestag

Type: Report

Author: Christoph Schröter-Schlaack; Christoph Revermann; Nona Schulte-Römer,

Institution: Institute for technology assessment and system analysis(ITAS)

Field of Research: Environmental and health risks: light pollution

Source file: DOI:10.5445/IR/1000121964

Year: 2020

re:look climate text: Nadine Oppenberg and Philipp Lengsfeld

re:look climate teaser:

In the previous teaser about the research report of the Office for Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag by C. Schröter-Schlaack, C. Revermann, and N. Schulte-Römer from 2020 on the subject of light pollution, the risks and acute impairments caused by light pollution were listed. This text describes the countermeasures in Germany, in Europe, and in non-European countries.


In the regulatory implementation of measures against light pollution, exists a discrepancy between safety, energy efficiency, aesthetics, costs, and the ecological and health risks. In Germany, there are currently no nationwide measures that lead to a significant improvement.

Regulations in Germany

Street lighting

Street lighting has a non-negligible share of light pollution. In Germany, there is no obligation to illuminate public roads. Only municipalities in Saxony, Berlin, Baden-Württemberg, and Bavaria are subject to an inner-city lighting requirement (Riedel et al. 2013). While the highways throughout Germany are mostly unlit, most of the inner-city streets are illuminated by lanterns. So far, there are no comprehensive regulations to curb street lighting.

Federal Immission Control Act

The Federal Immission Control Act, which is responsible for the containment of light pollution, among other things, only takes commercial systems into account. Since the lighting is often not part of the commercial facility, it is not subject to any approval requirements and only an avoidance and reduction requirement applies (Hofmeister 2013). When assessing light pollution, only people are seen as an object worthy of protection, which means that the measures are related to offices and school buildings as well as living spaces (Volker/Krenz 2013). Due to many subjective parameters in the perception of light, it is difficult to classify it as disturbing or pleasant and thus as a possible impairment or enrichment. There is also a lack of concrete provisions for measuring and assessing light emissions and a legal framework for effective containment, especially for the environment and species protection.

Other regulations

The German land use planning offers possibilities to prevent light immissions in advance. With different building law starting points, private artificial lighting, in particular, can be regulated.

Funding programs at federal level are primarily aimed at saving energy and the associated environmental protection. Measures to curb light emissions are also supported, but only marginally.

Other approaches

In addition to official regulations, there are suggestions for cities to voluntarily reduce light emissions. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the Starlight Foundation, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) award predicates with which the cities are declared as star protection areas and can advertise with them. Around 55-star parks were designated in Germany by 2014, which means that the cities have better notoriety and have more visitors. In the case of higher awards, it is also necessary to involve the neighboring communities, which must also pursue sustainable lighting in order to achieve the title "international dark sky reserve" or "international dark sky sanctuary".

Regulations in European countries

In France, a regulation came into force in 2018 that puts a time limit on the lighting of non-residential buildings. For example, parking lot, shop window, and office lighting are prohibited at certain times, or one hour after the shops have closed.

In Italy, individual regions have introduced their own laws to curb light pollution due to a lack of national regulations. For example, the regional law N31 in Lombardy stipulates that lamps should not emit light above the horizontal. In addition, the use of rotating light beams such as Skybeamers is prohibited.

In Austria, there are regulations according to ÖNORM Ö 1052 for the operating times of non-safety-related lighting. These are generally prohibited in nature reserves and grassland, as well as generally undeveloped areas. In the outskirts of settlements or rural settlements, this lighting may only be used in the period from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and in urban areas from 5:00 a.m. to midnight.

In Slovenia, in 2007, a nationwide ordinance was issued for the protection of nature, living spaces, the population, astronomical observations, and the reduction of electricity consumption. This ordinance regulates, among other things, the horizontal radiation, the power consumption for public lighting, and the illuminance for facade and cultural monument lighting.

Non-European regulations

In South Korea, light pollution is regulated by the regulation of appropriate illuminance and density, in addition to environmental management zones. Light parameter values are determined for the individual environmental zones, which ensure adequate lighting with minimal damage to the environment (H.S.Lim et al, 2018).

In Canada, the City of Mississippi Mills passed an ordinance detailing the types of lights and their shielding. In Fig. 1 some examples of permitted and prohibited lamp types are given (P. Teikari, 2007).

Fig. 1: Unaccepted and accepted light sources in Mississippi Mills (P. Teikari, 2007).


In summary, it can be stated that measures to contain light smog are being taken in Germany as well as in the surrounding EU and non-EU countries, but these are far from sufficient. Drastic countermeasures must be taken as soon as possible to curb the health hazard and prevent irreparable damage to nature and the environment.

In the following, third part of the light pollution series, the precise effect on the environment is examined in more detail.



[1] Lichtverschmutzung – Ausmaß, gesellschaftliche und ökologische Auswirkungen sowie Handlungsansätze, C. Schröter-Schlaack, C. Revermann, N. Schulte-Römer, 2020, Büro für Technikfolgenabschätzung beim deutschen Bundestag, 186

[2] Praxishandbuch Öffentliche Beleuchtung: Wirtschaftlichkeit, Recht, Technik. Riedel, M. Ringwald, R. Ronitzsch, 2013, Berlin

[3] Vermeidung von Lichtverschmutzung – Schutz der Nacht: Handlungsmoglichkeiten der Raum- und Umweltplanung, S. Hofmeister, 2013


[4] Schutz der Nacht – Lichtverschmutzung, Biodiversitat und Nachtlandschaft, Bundesamt für Naturschutz, M. Held, F. Holker, B. Jessel, 2013, BfN-Skripten 336, Bonn

[5] The Reality of Light Pollution: A Field Study to Determine Lighting Environmental Management Zones in South Korea, H. S. Lim, J. Ngarambe, J. T. Kim, G. Kim, 2018, sustainability, 10, 2

[6] Lightpollution: Definition, legislation, measurement, modeling and environmental effects, P. Taikari, 2007, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya

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