BERLIN – Germany’s highest court ordered the government to extend a 2019 law aimed at reducing the country’s carbon emissions to near zero by 2050, ruling on Thursday that the legislation did not go far enough to ensure protection of future generations.
The ruling by the country’s Federal Constitutional Court came as a rebuke to the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which drafted the law but only included detailed emission reduction targets until 2030.
“The appellants, some of whom are still very young, have had their freedoms violated by the disputed provisions,” said the ruling, ordering the government to revise the law by the end of next year to clarify and clarify the objectives. that go beyond 2030. “To preserve fundamental freedom, the legislature should have taken steps to alleviate this burden.”
The law under review in the court case was aimed at meeting Germany’s carbon emissions targets under the Paris Agreement, a pact made by 189 countries to try to keep the global temperature from rising. The German law included a series of measures such as a $ 60 billion spending program, a system of charges for carbon emissions and taxes to make flights more expensive.
But the law only stipulated how the cuts were to be achieved over the next decade. Decisions on how and how much to cut carbon emissions between 2031 and 2050 have been left open, to be decided in 2025.
In their lawsuit, climate activists had accused the government of failing to put in place a long-term strategy with clear reduction targets while Germany intends to be carbon neutral, the government had effectively put the can on the road and risked the freedom of future generations, who will have to live with the consequences.
Young climate activists, nine of whom had challenged the law, hailed the decision to join their concerns that failure to pass tough enough legislation today will put their lives in danger when they reach the end of the spectrum. adulthood. The nine young people who were among those who brought the case were between 15 and 24 years old.
Other activists also celebrated the Court’s focus on the future as a defining moment in the fight against climate change.
“The freedom and fundamental rights of tomorrow must not be burned by our broadcasts today – there is an obligation to ensure this protection through a science-based climate protection law,” said Christoph Bals , executive director of the environmental group Germanwatch.
“This decision will be a key point of reference for all ongoing climate trials around the world,” he said.
Members of the Fridays for Future organization celebrated the decision as “a huge victory for the climate movement”. Several of the young people who had taken the case to court were part of this group.
One of them, Luisa Neubauer, 24, welcomed the Court’s recognition that “climate justice is a fundamental right”, adding in a Twitter comment that “inaction today ‘ hui must not interfere with our freedom and our rights in the future ”.
The move could have political repercussions ahead of the September 26 elections which will choose a new parliament and a successor to Merkel, who is stepping down from politics after 16 years as German Chancellor.
During her four terms, Merkel has sought to emphasize the importance of tackling climate change, but her government’s policies have often fallen short of activists’ claims.
The 2019 law is the product of feuds between Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and their government partners, the center-left Social Democrats, who seized the opportunity of the decision to position themselves ahead of the next campaign.
Olaf Scholz, the German finance minister who is the Social Democratic candidate for chancellor, accused the Conservatives of dragging their feet for the court ruling. He berated Finance Minister Peter Altmaier in an exchange on Twitter so as not to go far enough in the original legislation.
“If I remember correctly, it was you and your party who first prevented what the Constitutional Court is now demanding,” said Mr Scholz. “But we can fix this problem. Are you with us? “
But it is the Greens, an opposition party, who could benefit the most from the move given its popularity with young people. The party has seen its support explode recently, with polls showing it in a neck and neck race for the head alongside the Conservatives.
Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ candidate for chancellor, hailed the decision as a “landmark decision” and called for a swift review of the law.
“Climate protection protects our freedom and the freedom of our children and grandchildren,” she said. written on twitter. “The years to come are decisive for consistent action.”