10 Dec 2021, 14:07
Benjamin Wehrmann

Citizens and NGO file further lawsuits against German states to improve climate policy

Clean Energy Wire

Several citizens in two German states have filed lawsuits against their state governments for failing to provide adequate climate legislation. Together with NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH), the “children and young adults” suing the states of Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony to demand that climate action laws are brought in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and Germany’s constitution, the DUH said. The latter stipulates after a landmark ruling earlier this year that effective climate protection is a government duty. Baden-Württemberg, which is led by the Green Party, reformed a 2013 climate law this year, aiming for climate neutrality by 2040 and 65 percent emissions reduction by 2030. This is deemed inadequate by the plaintiffs, who also lament a lack of control mechanisms to monitor the progress. “The state government apparently shuns a conflict in the coalition of the Green Party and the conservative CDU and tries to delay climate action measures until after the next state election,” DUH’s Jürgen Resch said. He argued that many measures need to be implemented immediately in buildings modernisation, transport and renewables expansion. Lower Saxony, on the other hand, which is led by the SPD, plans to reach climate neutrality by 2050 – five years after the new 2045 target year set by the federal government for Germany as a whole. “If Lower Saxony does not plan to leave Germany as a state, such a rule would violate the Paris Agreement and the constitution,” DUH’s Sascha Müller-Kraenner said.

In an unexpected decision widely hailed as historic, Germany's highest court in April 2021 ruled that the government's climate legislation is insufficient in that it lacks detail on emission reduction targets beyond 2030. The decision “significantly strengthens” climate action by ruling that if the government fails to protect the climate, it could violate citizens’ fundamental rights, legal experts have said. The complaint also was lodged by young climate activists, who increasingly have discovered courts as an effective way to further their environmental protection goals.

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