In what Clean Energy Wire calls an “unexpected decision widely hailed as historic,” Germany’s Constitutional Court has declared the country’s 2030 emission reduction targets are insufficient, lacking in detail, and therefore violate the fundamental rights of citizens—including the nine youth climate campaigners who originally launched the case.
“The challenged provisions do violate the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are still very young,” the court said in a statement. “The provisions irreversibly offload major emission reduction burdens onto periods after 2030.”
The decision is “unexpected and unprecedented” and “will have far-reaching effects,” Clean Energy Wire writes, citing legal experts.
“The Federal Constitutional Court has set a globally remarkable new standard for climate protection as a human right,” said Hamburg lawyer Dr. Roda Verheyen, who represented the youth plaintiffs. “It has recognized the extreme climate crisis and interpreted fundamental rights in a way that is just for present and future generations.”
With national elections coming up later this year, Verheyen added, “legislators now have a mandate to define a coherent reduction path to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality. Waiting and delaying radical emission reductions until later is unconstitutional. Climate action today must ensure that there is still room for future generations.”
“Climate action has been significantly strengthened by the Federal Constitutional Court today,” said Thorsten Müller, head of Stiftung Umweltenergierecht, a German research foundation with a focus on energy and environment law. “So far, we have not had any successful lawsuits for more climate action in German jurisdiction.”
And “if you had asked me before, I would have said that this lawsuit has no chance of success.”
But in the end, “for the first time, a German court has accepted that we have a limited climate budget left and that the constitutional duty to protect future generations is engaged,” said Germanwatch lawyer Hermann Ott. If the effort to mitigate carbon pollution is unfairly distributed over the next three decades, “there may be disproportionate impacts on the fundamental rights of future generations,” he added, and “the court has now recognized this and made it clear to the government that climate debts cannot be postponed.”
“Climate protection is not nice-to-have,” said German #FridaysforFuture leader Luisa Neubauer. “Fair climate protection is a fundamental right, that is now official.”
“It has become clear that essential parts of the [German] Federal Climate Protection Act are not compatible with our fundamental rights,” added youth complainant Sophie Backsen, who Germanwatch says has already seen the consequences of climate change on the North Sea island of Pellworm, where she lives. “Effective climate protection must start and be implemented now—not in 10 years. This is the only way to secure my future on my home island,” and “the decision gives me a tailwind to keep fighting.”