One essential goal of education is to enable people to act and not only to pass on knowledge. In other words, education should advance individual competence, which involves abilities that allow people to cope successfully with real-life tasks and everyday challenges. In the context of environmental education, the goal should generally be promoting proenvironmental action. Up to now, environmental education primarily focuses on theoretically derived ecology-unspecific, general proficiencies, such as problem-solving or value-reflection, to promote pro-environmental engagement. Ecologyunspecific abilities are, however, often behavior-distal and thereby empirically rather irrelevant for individual action. By contrast, we propose a competence model that is grounded in ecology-specific, empirically derived abilities, that are not only behavior effective, but also accessible to education. “Environmental knowledge” is an ability that has no motivational force as such; it is however seen by many as a necessary precondition for pro-environmental action. We distinguish three forms of environmental knowledge: system knowledge relates to the operating of ecosystems and to environmental problems; action knowledge comprises knowledge about behavioral options persons can take; and effectiveness knowledge addresses the net-benefit for the environment that is associated with a particular behavior. In addition and as the motivational source behind a person’s pro-environmental performance, we propose people’s “appreciation for nature.” This pro-nature attitude (although labeled differentially in the literature) has been corroborated to be an essential motive for pro-environmental action by a growing body of research. Within our model, we recognize a person’s nature appreciation in his or her (a) reports of past activities that imply a bonding with nature (e.g., “helping snails to cross the street”) and (b) responses to evaluative statements that reflect regard for nature, such as “carving a tree feels like cutting myself.” From a database of 1.922 German students aged from 12 to 14, all instruments have been calibrated with different models from the family of Rasch models. The five ecologyspecific instruments measuring environmental system knowledge, action related knowledge, effectiveness knowledge, the disposition to connect with nature, and ecological behavior, revealed good scale characteristics in terms of item and person fit and the items for all instruments covered a broad range of difficulty. Using structural equation modeling, we confirmed our anticipated competence structure. While environmental knowledge revealed only a rather moderate behavior effect, people’s appreciation for nature turned out to be the expected strong predictor of pro-environmental engagement. Overall, we believe that an empirically derived competence model in environmental education will eventually lead to more effective ways in promoting sustainable patterns of behavior in individuals.