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Processes: Federal government must tighten up climate protection program

Processes: Federal government must tighten up climate protection program

The Climate Protection Act sets out requirements for reducing greenhouse gases. Now a court is calling for more measures from the federal government to ensure that the goals are achieved.

The federal government must sharpen its climate protection program. This is what the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court decided. The judges ruled that the measures listed so far were not sufficient to achieve the climate goals and thus upheld two lawsuits filed by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

In its current form, the program approved last October does not fully meet the legal requirements, said presiding judge Ariane Holle in her ruling. It is already foreseeable that from 2024 to 2030 many sectors will exceed the permitted amounts of greenhouse gases emitted – probably with the exception of agriculture.

“The federal government must ensure that all measures in the climate protection program are prognostically suitable for achieving the climate protection goals (…) while maintaining the annual emission levels,” said Holle. This must be “methodologically flawless” and well-founded and must not be based on false forecasts. Because the climate targets set out in the Climate Protection Act are binding.

“A good day for climate protection”

The federal government initially did not want to comment when asked. You can appeal and thus postpone the effect of the judgment. Then it would be the Federal Administrative Court’s turn.

DUH Federal Managing Director Jürgen Resch told the dpa about the verdict: “Today is a good day for climate protection.” The federal government must now act quickly and improve the climate protection program in the short term. A key demand of his association is a speed limit of 100 km/h on motorways, 80 km/h on other roads outside towns and 30 km/h in urban areas.

Environmental Aid had recently taken legal action against the federal government’s climate policy and won a victory in November 2023. At that time, the OVG Berlin-Brandenburg ruled that the government must launch an immediate climate program in the transport and building sectors. The appeal against this is ongoing at the Federal Administrative Court.

Measures such as the heating law and the 49 euro ticket

As at that time, the basis for the DUH lawsuits were the requirements of the Climate Protection Act for various sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the years 2024 to 2030. In addition, the goal is anchored in the law to reduce these emissions in their entirety by at least 65 percent by 2030 to be reduced by 1990. In the previous year, around 46 percent reduction was achieved.

The climate protection program is considered a kind of overall plan by the federal government to achieve these goals. It lists numerous measures in the transport, energy, buildings, industry and agriculture sectors.

These include concrete measures, some of which have already been implemented, such as the new version of the Building Energy Act, the 49-euro Germany Ticket or the CO2-dependent truck toll. But there are also more general projects, such as strengthening local public transport or accelerating the designation of areas for the expansion of renewable energies.

Lawyer for the DUH: Program too cloudy and formulated too vaguely

In the five-hour oral hearing at the OVG, a lawyer for the DUH explained that much of the list was too vague, too cloudy and too vague. It is not clear what specific impact this will have on the reduction of climate-damaging greenhouse gases.

Legal representatives from the federal government, however, argued that the climate protection program was more of a political program than a concrete plan; he spoke of a “higher level of abstraction”. However, legislators and administration supported the program with concrete measures in many places.

In addition to the DUH as an association, three people originally sued. However, they withdrew their complaints after the oral hearing. Reason: The judges had expressed doubts that those affected in the case were entitled to sue.

Controversial reform of the climate protection law

The current climate protection law prescribes annual targets for each sector to reduce harmful greenhouse gases. If these are missed in individual sectors in a year, as was recently the case with the transport and building sectors, according to paragraph 8 of the law, the relevant ministry must counteract this with an immediate program.

However, this system is likely to change soon. At the end of April, the Bundestag passed a controversial reform of the Climate Protection Act, primarily at the instigation of the FDP in the traffic light coalition. Compliance with climate goals should therefore no longer be checked retroactively by sector, but should be aimed at the future, over several years and across sectors. However, nothing changes in the climate goals themselves.

What is crucial is that climate goals are achieved overall. If it becomes apparent in two consecutive years that the government is not on track to meet its climate target for 2030, it will have to make adjustments. The law is not yet in force, the Federal Council will discuss it on Friday.

Source: Stern

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