On December 6, 2021, the youth and young adult plaintiffs Cosima Rade, Hauke Engels, Jonathan Heckert, Judith Scheytt and An Janna Mahendrarajah, supported by environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH; Environmental Action Germany), brought a constitutional claim against the state of Baden-Württemberg (BaWü) for the inadequacy of its adopted and amended climate law. The plaintiffs relied on the German Constitution (Basic Law) to call on the state legislature to set a GHG emissions reduction pathway, to comply with the remaining CO2 budget and adopt sufficient instruments to achieve and verify the climate protection targets set by the Paris Agreement.
The 2013 BaWü Climate Protection Act was amended on October 11, 2021, replacing GHG reductions of 90% by 2050, with climate neutrality by 2040 and emissions reductions of 65% by 2030. However, plaintiffs argued that the BaWü Protection Act failed to lay down a sufficiently clear and binding legal framework for the implementation of the strategy and goals. Thereby, much of the implementation was left to the executive, which according to plaintiffs, may be guided by political interests. Moreover, plaintiffs highlighted the lack of measurable, intermittent goals.
The plaintiffs relied on the Constitutional Court’s decision in (Neubauer v. Germany), following which Germany adjusted its climate goals at the federal level. Plaintiffs argued that codification of a constitutional and legally binding reduction path is also required at the state level, as states bear co-responsibility for protecting lives and civil liberties, including safeguarding the natural foundations of life for future generations, within their own sphere of competence. Plaintiffs argued that the BaWü law falls short of these constitutional requirements. Plaintiffs asserted a violation by the state of its duty to protect and invoked their constitutional rights, to defend themselves against considerable future restrictions on their freedoms which – in view of rapidly progressing climate change – are to be considered inevitable and are already reflected in the insufficient action by the BaWü legislature.
On January 18, 2022, the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court did not admit the eleven complaints for adjudication, on the basis of a lack of adequate prospects. Widely in alignment with its decision in Neubauer v. Germany, the Court acknowledged that greenhouse gas reduction burdens cannot be unilaterally offloaded onto the future. However, in the cases at hand, complainants’ fundamental rights were not violated preemptively, because the state legislatures are not subject to a CO2 emissions budget, which (according to the Court in Neubauer v. Germany) is a prerequisite for such an effect. Rather it is the federal German legislature that is bound by the CO2 budget, but has a prerogative with respect to its implementation. As regards the federal states, the Court clarified that they too are responsible for climate protection, in particular by virtue of Article 20a of the Basic Law.