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German Court Sides With Young Climate Activists To Protect Human Rights

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German Court Sides With Young Climate Activists To Protect Human Rights

The 2019 protest in Jena, Germany, was organized by Fridays for Future, one of the advocacy organizations represented in the court case. Source: Joachim Aspenlab via Blatboldt flickr.

Last month, one of the most important human rights climate court cases Till today reached a resolution. Germany’s highest courtThe Federal Court of Justice ruled on April 29 that the country’s 2019 Climate Protection Act is not enough to protect the rights of the nation’s youth. Along with young climate activists, the court ordered the German government to extend existing carbon emissions mitigation measures to reach the law’s goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.

climate protection act, which the court ruled unconstitutional, requires the energy, transportation, industry, building, waste and agriculture sectors to collectively reduce carbon emissions by 55% from 1990 levels. However, these plans stop at the year 2030. When it was first adopted, the law was widely criticized For its inadequate climate regulations. For nine Germans in their teens and early twenties who sued, the void of 20 years of concrete government measures made the 2050 goal of the law unachievable.

When Germany and 194 other states signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, they agreed to work together to ensure that global temperatures did not rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Germany’s Climate Protection Act was meant to establish rules for meeting the country’s nationally determined contribution, which was an essential part of the Paris Agreement. While Germany’s 2019 Climate Protection Act establishes 10 years of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, young people and environmental associations backed them in the lawsuit, arguing that the country and the agreement’s goals are to be effectively reached between 2031 and 2050. Adequate measures need to be established for this. Additionally, the reduction in emissions over these decades is necessary to protect the human rights guaranteed by the German constitution.

On the day the court ruled on this historic case, the environment minister of Bavaria, Thorsten Glauber, announced Research concludes that five of Germany’s glaciers could merge into one decade. These glaciers, concentrated in Bavaria, have lost two-thirds of their ice in the past decade.

Germany’s glaciers provide water to rivers and streams during droughts, stabilize mountain cliffs, and are home to popular ski resorts. In his presentation in Munich, Glauber recognized their importance as a “thermometer for the state of our climate”, alluding to their role as an indicator of global climate temperature. In recent years, many German activists, scientists, and journalists The fragility of the country’s glaciers and the urgent urgency of climate action have been noted.

A snowy mountain range with ski lifts set against a blue sky.

Ski runs on Schneeferner Glacier in 2009. Source: Grzegorz Jerzek Y flickr.

Given that Germany’s glaciers could disappear by the 2030s, the extension of court-ordered climate action is more important than ever. But perhaps most important in this case is its foundation in constitutional and human rights.

Similar cases have been tried around the world with varying success. In the US, 21 young plaintiffs filed a constitutional climate suit, Juliana vs United States, claiming the government’s actions in 2015, or lack thereof, have violated their constitutional human rights. The matter has faced many hurdles in the court and is yet to come to any conclusion. 2019 urgent The Climate Case, on the other hand, is an example of another European court ruling in favor of youth activists. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that the government should reduce greenhouse gas emissions because they pose a threat to human rights. this was it first time that a court ordered a country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, requiring them to cut the country’s emissions by 25% compared to 1990 levels.

Michael Gerard, an environmental advocate and founder of Columbia University Sabin Center Spoke with GlacierHub about the importance of German and Dutch court cases for climate change legislation. “Both of these cases require national governments to take strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris climate agreement, and based not on specific statutes but on human rights and constitutional grounds,” Gerrard said.

While the two countries with legal requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are critical to climate action, this is not enough to reduce the world’s rising emissions. What it can do, however, is prompt other citizens, environmental groups and lawmakers to use the courts to advance climate change action as a way to protect human rights. “The Urgenda case inspired many lawsuits around the world,” Gerard said, “and the German case could further accelerate efforts to enlist the courts in the fight against climate change.”


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of knews.uk and knews.uk does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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