The First German Climate Case

Petra Minnerop (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Abstract

This article explains the first German climate case filed against the Federal Government in the Berlin Administrative Court in 2018 and decided in October 2019. The article identifies and examines the key elements of the decision of the Berlin Court and it places the legal issues of the case within the relevant framework of German administrative court procedure law, administrative law and constitutional law. The case evolved around the legally binding force of a cabinet decision of the Federal Government which laid down the German greenhouse gas emissons reduction target for 2020. Despite the fact that the application was dismissed for lack of standing, some important legal developments can be derived from the judgment, especially in relation to justiciability of the case and the state’s duty to protect fundamental rights under the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) in the climate change context. Just after the judgment was delivered, the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) adopted the first Federal Climate Protection Act in November 2019 and thus defined the state’s new climate targets in statutory form. This changed the legal landscape and claimants consequently abstained from appealing the judgment. However, the German Constitutional Court now has the opportunity to clarify further some of the legal issues that arose in this first German climate case from applying ‘traditional’ legal concepts to the challenge of climate change, if it decides to hear the constitutional complaint which was filed in 2020 against the Federal Climate Protection Act.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Law Review
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • German climate case
  • climate litigation
  • duty to protect
  • fundamental rights

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