Ger­man farm­ers sue gov­ern­ment over missed cli­mate tar­gets

Oman Daily Observer - - WORLD -

VETSCHAU, Ger­many: Dis­mayed by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to meet cli­mate pro­tec­tion tar­gets, dairy farmer Heiner Luetke Sch­wien­horst has filed a law­suit against Ber­lin to force it into ac­tion.

“Some de­scribe this as a fight be­tween David and Go­liath. To me, that’s be­sides the point,” said Sch­wien­horst, who suf­fered his poor­est har­vest in three decades af­ter a record drought.

“The at­ti­tude of political rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the way they triv­i­alise cli­mate tar­gets by giv­ing up what they have set, is some­thing that we need to bring to political ac­count­abil­ity. That is im­por­tant,” he said.

To­gether with two other farm­ers and Green­peace, Sch­wien­horst has launched a chal­lenge against the Ger­man gov­ern­ment for hav­ing “given up” try­ing to achieve cuts in green­house gas emis­sions set out un­der its own cli­mate tar­get, as well as un­der Euro­pean law.

A dairy farmer near Ham­burg and a live­stock farmer on the North Sea is­land of Pell­worm have joined the first such law­suit to seek “cli­mate pro­tec­tion, not mone­tary com­pen­sa­tion.”

Ber­lin had pledged to take ac­tion to slash green­house gas emis­sions in Ger­many by 40 per cent by 2020 com­pared to 1990 lev­els.

But in its lat­est an­nual cli­mate pro­tec­tion re­port pub­lished in June, the gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ted that it was now ex­pect­ing to achieve 32 per cent in re­duc­tions com­pared to 1990.

The short­fall of 8 per­cent­age points is equiv­a­lent to about 100 mil­lion tonnes of car­bon diox­ide.

“It was clear in the cli­mate pro­tec­tion re­port that the gov­ern­ment is not plan­ning to take fur­ther mea­sures in or­der to reach the tar­get. In­stead, it has sim­ply given up,” said Anike Peters of Green­peace.

“We’re say­ing we’re not go­ing to ac­cept this. Be­cause it’s not about a lack of tech­ni­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties to reach the tar­get, rather it’s about a lack of political will.

With the help of lawyer Roda Ver­heyen, the plain­tiffs lodged their case at the ad­min­is­tra­tive court in Ber­lin at the end of Oc­to­ber.

The court now needs to de­cide if there is any merit to the case. Ver­heyen is no stranger to such cli­mate cases.

In an­other high pro­file case in Ger­many, she helped bring to court a chal­lenge by a Pe­ru­vian farmer against en­ergy gi­ant RWE over cli­mate change dam­age in the An­des.

While the ini­tial rul­ing went against them, the case is now at the ap­peals court.

Ver­heyen said that in her lat­est case, the is­sue is whether the gov­ern­ment can be held li­able for fail­ing to im­ple­ment cli­mate pro­tec­tion mea­sures, as the tar­gets it set are not writ­ten into law.

“Here the plain­tiff fam­i­lies say, yes. Do what you’ve promised, gov­ern­ment, im­ple­ment the 2020 cli­mate pro­tec­tion goal.”

The en­vi­ron­ment min­istry, which is tak­ing the lead in re­spond­ing to the case, said the plain­tiffs had ev­ery right to bring the is­sue to court “to seek pub­lic at­ten­tion” and in­crease the pres­sure for bet­ter cli­mate pro­tec­tion.

“Al­though Ger­many’s cli­mate pro­tec­tion ef­forts have made progress, they have not yet reached our goals,” min­istry spokesman An­dreas Kue­bler said. “That’s why we’re fo­cus­ing on get­ting ahead in cli­mate pro­tec­tion.

“We are united in the same goal,” Kue­bler said. It was up to the court to de­cide whether the le­gal ac­tion was jus­ti­fied.


Farmer Heiner Luetke Sch­wien­horst feeds cat­tle in the cow­shed on his farm Gut Ogrosen Hof in Vetschau, eastern Ger­many.

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