Federal Government: Court: Traffic light coalition must tighten climate protection measures

Federal Government: Court: Traffic light coalition must tighten climate protection measures

Deutsche Umwelthilfe scores another victory: a court has ordered the federal government to take more effective steps to protect the climate. What has been planned so far is inadequate.

It is another legal slap for the traffic light coalition: The Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court has now decided that the federal government must sharpen its climate protection program. The judges ruled that the measures listed so far were not sufficient to achieve the climate goals and thus upheld two lawsuits brought by Deutsche Umwelthilfe.

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.

Far-reaching consequences for the traffic light government’s policy?

With the measures presented by the federal government so far, there will be a total gap of around 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2030. That is the amount of greenhouse gases that Germany would have to save by then in order to achieve its climate goals.

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. The Climate Protection Act anchors the goal of reducing emissions in their entirety by at least 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 to lower. By 2023, Germany had achieved around 46 percent reduction.

The ruling could have far-reaching consequences for the traffic light government’s policies – if it has to be implemented. Because the federal government can still appeal. Then it would be the Federal Administrative Court’s turn again.

“Slap in the face for the pseudo-climate protection policy”

German Environmental Aid celebrated its triumph in the evening. “This verdict is a deserved slap in the face for the federal government’s pseudo-climate protection policy,” said DUH Federal Managing Director Jürgen Resch. The federal government must now act quickly and make improvements in the short term. A key demand of his club is a speed limit on motorways. From an environmental aid perspective, climate-damaging subsidies such as tax advantages for company car owners should also be abolished.

The organization had recently taken legal action against the federal government’s climate policy and achieved 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. Both sectors have long been considered problem children. According to the figures recently presented by the Federal Environment Agency, the targets for reducing greenhouse gases will be missed again in 2023. The transport sector has so far failed particularly clearly to make its contribution.

The climate protection program complained about is seen as 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.

Measures such as the heating law and 49 euro ticket

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.

During the five-hour oral hearing, a DUH lawyer explained that much of the list was formulated too vaguely. It is not clear what specific impact this will have on reducing 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.

The current climate protection law prescribes annual targets for each sector to reduce harmful greenhouse gases. If these are missed in individual sectors in one year, as happened in the transport and building sectors, the responsible ministry must counteract this with an immediate program.

Controversial reform of the climate protection law

However, this system is likely to change soon. At the end of April, the Bundestag passed a controversial reform of the climate protection law, primarily at the instigation of the coalition partner FDP. 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. Climate activists see this as a weakening of the goals – as individual sectors would no longer be held accountable as before.

According to the innovation, it is crucial that the climate goals are achieved overall. The new law is not yet in force, the Federal Council is now discussing it.

The ruling that has now been issued could influence the outcome of the deliberations there. The Federal Council would have the option not to approve the law and instead appeal to the Mediation Committee. One thing is clear: the verdict is likely to cause a lot of unrest within the federal government.

Source: Stern

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