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Steinmetz, et al. v. Germany

Jurisdiction: Federal Constitutional Court of Germany

Principle law(s): Federal Climate Protection Act and to change further regulations ("Bundesklimaschutzgesetz” or “KSG")

Side A: Steinmetz, et al. & Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Individual ngo)

Side B: Germany (Government)

Core objectives: Youth argue that Germany's amended GHG reduction goals continued to violate fundamental rights.

On January 24, 2022, a group of German minors and young adults, supported by environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH, Environmental Action Germany) filed a constitutional challenge to Germany's updated Federal Climate Protection Act (“Bundesklimaschutzgesetz” or “KSG”). Claimants argue that the KSG's amended GHG emissions reduction paths are insufficient in light of Germany’s constitutional and international legal obligations. 

This constitutional challenge builds on the Constitutional Court’s order in Neubauer v. Germany, where the Court found in favor of a group of youths, striking down parts of the KSG as incompatible with fundamental rights for failing to set sufficient emissions reduction pathways. For the first time in its jurisprudence, the Court stated that “the fundamental rights - as intertemporal guarantees of freedom - afford protection against the greenhouse gas reduction burdens imposed by Art. 20a of the Basic Law being unilaterally offloaded onto the future." Consequently, the Constitutional Court ordered the federal German legislature to set clear provisions for reduction targets. In response to the decision, the federal lawmakers passed a bill approving an adapted KSG, which has been in effect since August 31, 2021. It raised the reduction target for 2030 from 55% to 65% (as compared to 1990 levels). It also updated the reduction path for the years 2031-2040, and elaborated on the legislative involvement in the determination of the individual sector budgets from 2031 onwards. Lastly, the target year for achieving carbon neutrality was brought forward from 2050 to 2045. 

Relying on a new factual basis and scientific updates, claimants argue that the amended KSG and its reduction targets are insufficient to protect their fundamental rights: 

In August 2021, the IPCCC released the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6WGI), on the scientific basis of climate change. The report details how the 1.5°C limit may be surpassed in roughly 10 years. In the Report, the IPCC also refined previous calculations on residual budgets, directly transferrable onto Germany’s remaining budget. Beyond these developments in international climate science, claimants also invoked the Glasgow Climate Pact. In this joint final declaration of COP26, the UNFCCC’s contracting parties agreed to significantly strengthen the 1.5°C target, which includes drastic emissions reductions before the end of the decade. 

Claimants argue that the new reduction path continues to infringe on their fundamental rights, as it will use up large parts of Germany’s remaining CO2 budget, as determined in accordance with Article 20a of the Basic Law. Rather, claimants argue, both reduction paths, i.e., from 2021-2030, and after 2030 exceed the budget limits and put Germany way above the Paris and/or Glasgow targets. In addition, claimants argue that the risk of considerable impairments of their fundamental rights is further increased by the lack of clear obligations on, and coordinated efforts across the federal states. As a result, the federal states have very differing and at times insufficient climate protection policies. Claimants ask the Constitutional Court to declare parts of the amended KSG unconstitutional and to order the federal legislature to re-regulate the reduction pathway in light of new scientific constraints, and to make provision for the distribution of the reduction burden across the federal states. 

Case documents

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from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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