Traffic lights must reinforce climate protection measures

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Written By Kampretz Bianca

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Activists from German Environmental Aid (DUH) protest yesterday with masks showing key members of the traffic light government in front of the Higher Administrative Court Berlin-Brandenburg./image alliance, Paul Zinken

Berlin – It’s another legal defeat for the traffic light coalition: the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg ruled yesterday that the federal government must improve its climate protection program. The judges decided that the measures listed so far were not sufficient to achieve climate goals and thus rejected two actions brought by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (YOU H) instead (ref.: OVG 11 A 22/21 and OVG 11 A 31/22).

In its current form, the program approved last October does not fully comply with legal requirements, said presiding judge Ariane Holle in her decision. It is already predictable that between 2024 and 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 climate protection program measures are prognostically appropriate to achieve climate protection goals while maintaining annual emissions levels,” Holle said. This must be “methodologically perfect” and well-founded and must not be based on false predictions. Because the climate targets set out in the Climate Protection Law are binding.

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. This is the amount of greenhouse gases Germany would have to save by then to reach its climate objectives.

The basis for the DUH lawsuits negotiated yesterday was the Climate Protection Law’s requirements for various sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the years 2024 to 2030. The Climate Protection Law anchors the goal of reducing emissions by its entirety by at least 65 percent by 2030 compared to the year 1990. By 2023, Germany has achieved a reduction of around 46%.

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

German Environmental Aid celebrated its triumph in the evening. “This verdict is a well-deserved slap in the face for the federal government’s pseudo-climate protection policy,” said DUH Federal Director General Jürgen Resch.

The federal government must now act quickly and make improvements in the short term. One of your club’s main demands is the speed limit on motorways. From an environmental aid perspective, climate-damaging subsidies, such as tax advantages for company car owners, must also be abolished.

The organization recently took legal action against the federal government’s climate policy and won a victory in November 2023. At that time, OVG Berlin-Brandenburg decided that the government should launch an immediate climate program in the transport and construction sectors. The appeal against this is ongoing at the Federal Administrative Court.

Both sectors have long been considered problem children. According to figures recently presented by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) the greenhouse gas reduction targets were not met again in 2023. So far, the transport sector has not been able to make its contribution particularly clearly.

The climate protection program called for is seen as a kind of global plan by the federal government to achieve these goals. It lists numerous measures in the transport, energy, buildings, industry and agriculture sectors.

These include concrete measures, some of which have already been implemented, such as the new version of the Building Energy Act, the 49-euro German ticket or the COtwodependent 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 energy.

During the five-hour oral hearing, a DUH lawyer explained that much of the list was formulated too vaguely. It is unclear what specific impact this will have on reducing greenhouse gases. The federal government’s legal representatives argued, however, 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 lacking in individual sectors in a year, as happened in the transport and construction sectors, the responsible ministry must counter this with an immediate programme.

However, this system will likely change soon. At the end of April, the Bundestag approved a controversial reform of the climate protection law, mainly at the instigation of coalition partner FDP. Compliance with climate objectives should therefore no longer be checked retroactively by sector, but should be oriented towards the future, over several years and across sectors. Climate activists see this as a weakening of objectives – as individual sectors would no longer be held accountable as they once were.

According to Innovation, it is crucial that climate goals are achieved globally. The new law is not yet in force, the Federal Council is discussing it today.

The decision now issued could influence the outcome of the deliberations in that country. The Federal Council would have the option of not approving the law and appealing to the Mediation Committee. One thing is certain: the verdict will likely cause a lot of unrest within the federal government. © dpa/aerzteblatt.de

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