Three German families and Greenpeace Germany have filed suit in the Berlin Administrative Court against the German federal government for backing off its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target in alleged violation of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to life and health, property, and occupational freedom. The German families are organic farmers who claim they are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. The claims are brought under German and EU law.
An English summary of the pleadings released by Greenpeace reports that by the German Environmental Ministry’s own calculations, the German government will miss its climate goal to emit 40 percent less greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2020, compared to 1990 levels (Climate Protection Program 2020). Plaintiffs allege this failure encroaches on their human rights in violation of the German Constitution, the Grundgesetz, specifically under Article 2(2) (right to life and health), Article 12(1) (occupational freedom), and Article 14(1) (right to property). They further allege that failure to meet the Climate Protection Program 2020 target violates Germany’s minimum obligations under the EU Effort Sharing Decision (406/2009/EC).
Greenpeace further reports that plaintiffs are asking for court orders determining that the Government is obliged to: 1) implement the national Climate Protection Program 2020 by updating or supplementing appropriate measures to meet the 2020 target, 2) compensate for the excess of approximately 650 million tons of CO2 equivalent between 2007 and today due to insufficient implementation of the 2020 target; and 3) supplement the national Climate Protection Program 2020 to meet the reduction targets set out in European environmental law. This is the first climate lawsuit to refer to the recent publication of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5°C.
On October 31, 2019 the court dismissed the case, concluding that the 2020 target was not legally binding. According to Greenpeace, however, the court did find that the impacts of climate change can violate fundamental rights.