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    Climate lawsuit from German Environmental Aid: New setback for traffic lights – politics


    From a traffic light perspective, Friday could have been a smooth conclusion to a tough affair. As a sort of last resort, the Federal Council tackled the German climate protection law – and completed the matter in just two and a half minutes. Not a single request to speak, not a request to appeal to the mediation committee. Months of discussions were over. But before the joy of a weakened climate protection law, the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court issued a ruling. Once again.

    The court had already given the federal government a heavy hand last November. The judges ruled that the ministries of transport, construction and economics had failed to implement the prescribed emergency programs – and they happily quoted the relevant passages from the law. The coalition appealed to the Federal Administrative Court and changed the law, the last act this Friday. Because the federal judges will now no longer deal with the old law but with the new law, the matter is likely to have been resolved: the law no longer provides for emergency programs for individual ministries.

    The government must do more for the moors

    It won't be that easy with the recent rulings. Deutsche Umwelthilfe had filed two lawsuits, in both of which the Higher Administrative Court followed its arguments (OVG 11 A 22/21, OVG 11 A 31/22). And both of these cannot simply be done with the new law – quite the opposite.

    One of the judgments relates to the government's climate protection program. Last fall, she wanted to use this “overall plan” to explain how she would achieve the climate goals by 2030 – beyond the previous emergency programs for individual ministries. But according to the Higher Administrative Court, it does not meet the climate goals. What's more: it suffers from “methodological deficiencies” and is “partly based on unrealistic assumptions.” This judgment will not change if the climate protection law is weakened, says Environmental Aid managing director Sascha Müller-Kraenner. “The deficit remains.” He looks forward to a revision calmly.

    “We take note of the ruling,” says the Ministry of Transport

    The other ruling revolves around an area that is often overlooked: land use changes. For example, if a moor becomes a field, climate-damaging emissions are permanently released – if you do it the other way around, you bind them. The same applies to forests or grassland. How much carbon dioxide can be bound by protecting moors, forests and meadows can be calculated fairly precisely. Unfortunately, the balance for Germany is negative: more CO₂ is released there than is stored. In 2045, when Germany is supposed to be climate neutral, 40 million tons of negative emissions will be recorded there. This goal will be “significantly missed from today’s perspective,” according to the federal government’s latest projection report. And the court sees it very similarly. So the government needs to do more for Moore and Co.

    The Federal Council also thinks so. He did not call the mediation committee regarding the climate protection law, as environmental associations had requested. But he passed a resolution: On the one hand, the Federal Council calls for an obligation to readjust measures in the event that Germany foreseeably misses its climate targets. On the other hand, he emphasizes that the strengthening and restoration of natural ecosystems provided for in the Climate Protection Act “cannot be suitable for compensating for deficits in other sectors in climate protection”. Traffic currently has the biggest deficit.

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    The Federal Ministry of Transport is still calm. “We take note of the verdict,” they say, and we are now waiting for the written reasons for the verdict. Remo Klinger, on the other hand, a lawyer for Environmental Aid, sees the judgment as the counterpart to the Constitutional Court's climate judgment from 2021, after all it is now about the instruments. “What use are the goals,” he says, “if we don’t have the measures?”

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