Politicians must improve climate protection in order to protect the freedom rights of future generations. The Federal Climate Protection Act falls short, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday. The Karlsruhe judges obliged the legislature to regulate the reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions for the period after 2030 in more detail by the end of next year. Constitutional complaints from several climate protection activists were partially successful (Ref .: 1 BvR 2656/18, among others).
The judges declared that the complainants, some of whom were still very young, had violated their rights of freedom through the provisions of the law. “The regulations irreversibly postpone high emission reduction burdens to periods after 2030.” When the CO2-Budget is already extensively consumed by 2030, this exacerbates the risk of a “serious loss of freedom” because the time span for technical and social developments is becoming shorter.
Limiting an increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 ° C and, if possible, to 1.5 ° C, as planned, would then only be feasible with increasingly urgent and short-term measures. “Practically any freedom is potentially affected by these future emission reduction obligations, because almost all areas of human life are still connected with the emission of greenhouse gases and are therefore threatened by drastic restrictions after 2030”, it says in the Declaration by the German Supreme Court.
In order to preserve fundamentally secured freedom, the legislature should have taken precautions “to alleviate these high burdens”. There is talk of “precautions to ensure a freedom-friendly transition to climate neutrality”. So far it is missing.
Article 20a of the Basic Law states: “The state also takes responsibility for future generations and protects the natural foundations of life and animals within the framework of the constitutional order through legislation and in accordance with the law and justice through the executive and the judiciary.” This is what the court refers to. One generation should not be allowed to “under a comparatively mild reduction burden large parts of the CO2– To use up budgets if, at the same time, this would leave the following generations a radical burden of reduction and their lives would be exposed to extensive loss of freedom ”.
In the future, even serious losses of freedom to protect the climate could be proportionately and constitutionally justified, explained the judges. The fundamental rights would have to be weighed up. But: “At the same time, the relative weight of the climate protection requirement will continue to increase in the context of advancing climate change.”
Fridays for Future
The judges warned that the natural foundations of life must be handled carefully. And they would have to be left for posterity in a state “that subsequent generations could not only keep them at the price of their own radical abstinence”. Almost a dozen climate activists from Fridays for Future demonstrated in front of the court on Thursday morning. They had posters with them that read, among other things: “Listen to science! Climate protection now!” Several associations involved in the lawsuits had announced a press conference for the morning.
The Bundestag and Bundesrat approved the federal government’s climate package at the end of 2019 after the federal and state governments had negotiated compromises. The key point is the Climate Protection Act. For individual areas such as traffic, agriculture or buildings, it specifies how many greenhouse gases they are allowed to emit in which year.
“The purpose of this law is to ensure that national climate protection targets are met and that European targets are met,” says the Federal Environment Ministry. According to the Paris Climate Agreement – which forms the basis of German law – the increase in the global average temperature is to be limited to well below 2 ° C and, if possible, to 1.5 ° C, in order to keep the effects of climate change as low as possible.
The Constitutional Court is now calling for transparent measures for the further development of greenhouse gas reduction to be implemented at an early stage. The judges thus combine development pressure and planning security. Under constitutional law, it is essential, on the one hand, that further reduction measures are set in good time beyond the year 2030 and at the same time sufficiently far into the future. On the other hand, further annual emission quantities and reduction measures would have to be specified in a differentiated manner for the purpose of concrete orientation.