BERLIN (AP) – In a ruling hailed as groundbreaking, Germany’s top court said Thursday that the government should set clear goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2030, arguing that existing laws risk placing too much of a burden on curbing climate change. in the younger generation.
The verdict is a victory for climate activists from Germany and elsewhere who – with the support of environmental groups – have filed four complaints with the Constitutional Court arguing that their rights are threatened by a lack of adequate targets over the next decade.
Like other EU countries, Germany aims to reduce emissions 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.The law passed two years ago sets specific targets for sectors such as heating and transportation during that period, but not for the purpose long term from cut emissions to “net zero” by 2050.
The 2019 regulation “permanently pushes the burden of a very high emission reduction to the period after 2030,” the judge said in his decision.
The Court supports the argument that the goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement is to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 C (2.7 F), by the end of this century compared to pre- industry. should become a benchmark for policy makers. He ordered the German government to set new targets from 2030 onwards until the end of next year.
In a striking precedent, the court also acknowledged the idea that Germany had a limited emissions “budget” before the Paris goal became impossible. Although they do not specify how much Germany shares the global carbon budget, scientists say at current levels those emissions could be exhausted in less than a decade.
Lawyer Felix Ekardt, who brought up one of the cases, called the ruling “groundbreaking” for Germany.
“Germany’s climate policy needs to be massively adjusted,” he told reporters.
Roda Verheyen’s fellow lawyers say the decision likely means a German plan to phase out coal use by 2038 needs to be put forward, in order to realistically reach the country’s long-term emissions targets.
“A simple calculator shows that this is necessary,” he said.
Germany has managed to reduce its annual emissions from the equivalent of 1.25 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 1990 to around 740 million tonnes last year – a reduction of more than 40%.
The current target will require cutting 178 million tonnes by 2030, but reductions of 281 million tonnes in each of the following decades.
The judges said it would be wrong to let one generation “use up a large chunk of the CO2 budget with a relatively light abatement burden, if it simultaneously means that the next generation is left with a radical abatement burden and their lives are faced with comprehensive limitations of freedom. “
Climate activists expressed joy at the verdict.
“With today’s decision, generational justice has been achieved,” said plaintiff Luisa Neubauer, a member of the Fridays for Future group. “Because our freedom and future rights are no less important than the rights and freedoms of the current generation.”
Germany’s main industry lobby group, BDI, is calling for transparent and viable targets to give companies the assurance needed to plan and develop new technologies and make the investments needed to shift from fossil fuels to carbon-free alternatives.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said after his decision that he would propose new measures for Europe’s biggest economy in the coming months.
The court’s decision is unanimous in the hands of the environmental activist party Green, which leads in several polls ahead of Germany’s national elections on Sept. 26.
Annalena Baerbock, the Green Party candidate to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, called for “concrete action, here and now.”
He said the Greens wanted to double the rate of expanding wind parks, solar fields and other renewable energy sources over the next five years, banning the sale of new combustion-engine vehicles from 2030, advancing the deadline for ending coal. use and set additional emission targets after 2030.
The UK earlier this month announced it would reduce emissions by 78% from 1990 levels by 2035, the most ambitious target of any industrialized country. The UK is to host this year’s international climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Christiana Figueres, who as UN climate chief played an important role in negotiating the Paris accord, said the unanimous ruling from a German court made clear the need to accelerate efforts to reduce emissions.
“We need to focus on short-term mitigation and emission reduction,” he said, adding that this urgency was reflected in last week’s climate summit hosted by President Joe Biden, who announced doubling US targets for 2030, now aims to reduce emissions by 52% from 2005 levels.
The case law in Germany is part of a global effort by climate activists to force governments to take urgent action to tackle climate change.
One of the first cases brought in Netherlands, in which the Supreme Court two years ago confirmed a decision requiring the government to reduce emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.
In February, a Paris court ruled that out the French government has failed to take adequate action to fight climate change in the case brought by four nongovernmental organizations.
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