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German Constitutional Complaint

Historic ruling: climate protection a constitutional priority

The German Federal Government was deemed to be inadequately protecting the rights of future generations. In 2021, in an historic ruling, the German Constitutional Court identified parts of the Climate Protection Act of 2019 as unconstitutional. Nine young people had petitioned the court in the lead-up to this ruling.

On 29 April 2021 the German Constitutional Court wrote history in Germany and made climate protection a constitutional priority. The court declared parts of the 2019 Climate Protection Act of the German Federal Government to be unconstitutional, after a total of four constitutional complaints against the Act were presented by nine young people. Their constitutional complaints underlined the criticism that the goals and measures of the Climate Protection Act were inadequate to effectively uphold the plaintiffs’ basic human right to protection from the consequences of climate change, or meet the government’s obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The ruling of the German Constitutional Court reads as follows: “Article 20a GG includes the necessity to treat natural resources with sufficient care and leave them in such a state that future generations might continue to preserve them without having to resort to measures of extreme austerity on their part.”

The German climate case (also known as “Neubauer et al. vs the German Government”) taken before the German Constitutional Court was based on the legal arguments prepared for the first European “People’s Climate Case”.

Nine young people appeared as the plaintiffs, including Luisa Neubauer and Lüke Recktenwald, who earlier went to court with his family in the People’s Climate Case. The plaintiffs were young people and adults from Germany and abroad.

Climate protection is a constitutional priority! The historic ruling of the German Constitutional Court in April 2021 accorded future generations the right to an intact environment. The German government had to amend its Climate Protection Act retrospectively in the wake of this ruling.

Who was behind this court action? It was supported by Protect the Planet, the German environmental association (BUND) and the German Solar Energy Association, a German Environmental Aid group (DUH) and also by Greenpeace and Germanwatch.


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