Angela Merkel (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
German climate activists said on Wednesday they were suing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government over what they say is its insufficient action to tackle climate change, arguing that the failure contravened a constitutional right to “human dignity”.
The German lower house of parliament last year approved a major climate protection package to help the country meet its 2030 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists have said the measures are insufficient.
“This is no longer just about future generations. To us, this is about our generation, our lives and the fact that the non-action of the government terrorises our freedom,” said Luisa Neubauer, from the German chapter of the youth climate group ‘Fridays for Future’, one of the plaintiffs.
Their lawsuit is one of three filed in the past week against both the government and parliament, invoking Germans’ basic right under article one of their constitution to live in dignity.
“From today the question is whether the government’s non-action is compatible with the constitution. We are convinced it is not and that’s why we are suing,” said Neubauer.
One of the lawsuits was filed by a group of Nepalis and Bangladeshis, though it was not immediately clear why they were seeking legal redress through the German courts. Nepal and Bangladesh border, or are near to, China and India, two of the world’s biggest polluters.
Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Environmental Action Germany and Germanwatch said they supported the lawsuits.
But conservative lawmaker Jan-Marco Luczack dismissed the claims as a good “PR gag” and said courts had nothing to do with climate policy.
“It is the duty of politicians to weigh and make (climate) policy,” he said in an interview with the Funke group of newspapers “The Constitutional Court will not do the job of lawmakers.”
Climate activists say Germany could do more to achieve its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 55% of their 1990 level by 2030 were it not for the government’s strong ties to the car industry, which supports some 800,000 jobs.
They point to government resistance to introducing a speed limit on all of German motorways. The lack of such a limit on large sections of the network encourages drivers to race unashamedly and emit more carbon dioxide, activists say.