In a ruling hailed as a landmark victory for the climate justice movement, Germany’s top constitutional court said Thursday that the nation’s 2019 climate law violates young people’s “fundamental rights to a human future” by failing to set adequate emissions-reduction targets.
The court ruled that in their current form, the elements of Germany’s Federal Climate Protection Act “governing national climate targets and the annual emission amounts allowed until 2030 are incompatible with fundamental rights insofar as they lack sufficient specifications for further emission reductions from 2031 onwards.”
“Climate protection is not nice to have; climate protection is our basic right and that’s official now.”
—Luisa Neubauer, Fridays for Future
The law’s emissions targets for 2031 and beyond, the court added, “are not sufficient to ensure that the necessary transition to climate neutrality is achieved in time” and thus “violate the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are still very young.”
The new ruling gives the German government until the end of next year to improve the climate law, which requires the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels and ensure almost no carbon emissions by 2050. A signature achievement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the law has long been criticized by scientists and activists as woefully insufficient.
“This is huge,” Luisa Neubauer, a Berlin-based Fridays for Future activist and one the plaintiffs in the case, told The Guardian in response to the ruling. “Climate protection is not nice to have; climate protection is our basic right and that’s official now.”
“This can change so much, not just for us here in Germany but for activists worldwide,” Neubauer added on Twitter.
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