Finally: The federal government of Germany is being sued for its negligence in pursuing its self-imposed climate goals. Anyone living in Germany can apply for participation in the Greenpeace climate charge . In the application, however, you have to explain why you are “directly or even existentially impaired by the consequences of global heating” . Hm, it sounds like climate change is a temporary, limited problem that affects some people and not others. Is that correct?
But from the beginning: In 2014, the German federal government set the binding goal of reducing carbon emissions in Germany by 40% compared to 1990 levels until 2020. This was the so-called “Climate Protection Action Program 2020”. Unfortunately, far too little has happened since then. Quite the opposite: The sluggish coal phase-out, the further increase in air traffic, the SUV boom including fake consumption figures declared by the car manufacturers, plus ever more cheap meat from industrial agriculture. Fatally, many things seem to be going in the wrong direction. However, the federal government is making no recognizable efforts to counteract this through legal requirements. Everything indicates that the climate target will be missed by a huge amount.
Who is suing?
With the Greenpeace climate action, several families will now argue in court for their fundamental right to maintain their livelihood:
- There is the Backsen family , who run an organic farm on the North Sea island of Pellworm. The people living there are directly threatened by the rise in sea levels and by increasing extreme weather conditions, especially storm surges.
- The Lütke Schwienhorst family , who run an organic farm in Brandenburg, suffered significant crop failures due to the 2018 drought. More heat waves and heavy downpours are to be expected in the future.
- And finally the Blohm family , who have been running an organic fruit farm in the so-called Old Land (“Altes Land”) west of Hamburg for many years. In addition to drought, heat, heavy precipitation and flooding of the Elbe, the family is struggling with increasing infestation of fruit trees from pests that have migrated due to temperature.
What are they suing for?
The indictment of the Greenpeace climate charge comprises 86 pages. Put simply, the court should determine that the German federal government is obliged to implement the Climate Action Program 2020 as decided. In addition, the court should determine the obligation of the federal government to supplement the action program with measures to compensate the carbon emissions that have already been emitted for lack of implementation.
So all in all, it’s an important and overdue initiative. It would be great if as many people as possible would take the side of the plaintiff families. But wait, there was something else: Yes, you have to describe on the application form to what extent you are affected yourself.
Who is affected?
In my opinion, the matter is clear: The climate crisis threatens every single person (and every other living being) on this planet existentially. After all, it is a global problem that is constantly increasing, if we don’t finally take comprehensive countermeasures . Out of this conviction, I wrote the following text in my application for participation in the climate charge:
“The climate crisis that is already noticeable today is not a temporary phenomenon that threatens some people and others not. The heat and drought summer of 2018 was a little foretaste of what lies ahead for all of us. Without immediate and consistent action, we are heading for global warming to an extent that threatens the health and livelihood of our children and grandchildren. The climate crisis is, along with environmental destruction and the resulting loss of biodiversity, the existential crisis of mankind. A continuation of the policy of omission and procrastination will sooner or later inevitably lead to ecological collapse.
As the father of two daughters, I urge the federal government of Germany to stop representing the one-sided interests of lobby associations. Finally take your responsibility for the well-being of the entire population seriously. Act quickly and comprehensively to contain the climate crisis while this is still possible. Failure to comply with the climate goals that have already been adopted threatens the fundamental right of my children and grandchildren to survive. “
I am curious whether the court will accept this statement. As soon as I have the decision, I will inform you about it at this point. Until then: Think about whether you might also want to submit an application to the Greenpeace climate charge. The plaintiff families are sure to be happy about everyone who supports them.
The Berlin administrative court dismissed the Greenpeace climate charge in October 2019, but considers climate charges generally admissible. In the meantime, nine young people, supported by Greenpeace among others, have filed a constitutional complaint against the German climate protection measures with the Federal Constitutional Court. The procedure is still ongoing (as of February 2021).