German high court rules in favor of young climate activists

The consequences of human-induced climate change are looming, and young people around the world are making it clear that they refuse to accept the inadequate efforts of today’s governments to curb carbon emissions and protect what’s left of the world’s ecosystems.

This past Thursday, judges in the Karlsruhe court, the highest court in Germany, ruled in favor of a group of nine youth climate activists who claim that the country’s climate law is unconstitutional as it leaves much of the strain of solving climate change on future generations. The court now demands that the German government must update its climate law and set a much clearer emissions reduction goal by the end of 2022.

The 2019 climate law set a target of reaching net-zero emissions for the whole country by 2050 and specifies suggestions to curb emissions in multiple sectors to get to a 55 percent reduction by 2030. However, after that point, the targets and goals laid out in the law become vague. This ambiguity means that younger generations will be left with the burden of taking care of the mess that previous generations are responsible for.

Thanks to the actions of this remarkable group of young people, the court has acknowledged that the current reductions pass off too much of the responsibility to find solutions that will allow the country to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement on to younger generations.

The court also acknowledged Germany’s specific carbon “budget” which the country must abide by if they are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. At current rates of progress, this budget could be met as early as 2030. Roda Verheyen, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, also points out that the country’s mandate to phase out coal use by 2038 would surely be moved up to accommodate the court’s ruling.

The climate activists, some of whom are very young, are backed by other eco-conscious groups including Fridays for Future, founded by famous youth climate activist Greta Thunberg, and Friends of the Earth Germany.

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