Friday, April 30, 2021

Climate Change: The young win in Germany

Over the past few years there has been a spate of court cases over climate change, as young people have turned to the courts to protect the future. And in Germany, they've just won, with the constitutional court ruling that climate measures need to be strengthened to protect future generations:

In a groundbreaking ruling, the judges of the Karlsruhe court, Germany’s highest, said the government now had until the end of next year to improve its Climate Protection Act, passed in 2019, and to ensure it met 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals more immediately.


The judges ruled that young people’s “fundamental rights to a human future” were threatened and that the law in its current state jeopardised their freedom because the goals set were too focused on dates too far in the future. It said that it was only possible to reduce the rise in average global temperatures to between 1.5C and 2C – as set out in the 2015 Paris agreement – with “more urgent and shorter term measures”.

“The challenged rules violate the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are still very young,” the judges said in a statement. They added: “Virtually every freedom is potentially affected by these future emission reduction obligations because almost every area of human life is associated with the emission of greenhouse gases and is therefore threatened by drastic restrictions after 2030.”

Germany's Climate Protection Act is a Zero Carbon Act-style framework. As with New Zealand, the German government backloaded its emissions cuts to go soft on current polluters. Now the court has called bullshit on that, they're going to have to do something real.

Could such a ruling happen here? Probably not under the BORA - its not supreme law and can't overturn other laws. But there's certainly ample scope for review of interim budgets and targets under the Zero Carbon Act, and a challenge is virtually certain if the initial ones are not seen as ambitious enough.