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Jannis Krüßmann et al. v. Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW)

Jurisdiction: Federal Constitutional Court

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

Side A: Mia Hense (Individual)

Side A: Tobias Linck (Individual)

Side A: Lea Wynhoff (Individual)

Side A: Jannis Krüßmann (Individual)

Side B: Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW) (Government)

Core objectives: The inadequacy of a climate protection law in the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen.

On July 15, 2021, Jannis Krüßmann, Lea Wynhoff, Tobias Linck, and Mia Hense brought a constitutional claim against the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW) for the inadequacy of the adopted climate law. The plaintiffs rely on the Paris Agreement and the Basic Law to call on the state legislature to set a pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to comply with the remaining CO2 budget and adopt sufficient instruments to achieve and verify the climate protection targets required. 

NRW is the state with the biggest population and the highest greenhouse gas emissions. The 2013 NRW Climate Protection Act was revised on July 1, 2021, raising the climate protection targets for the years 2030 (greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 65%), 2040 (greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 88%) and 2045 (achieve carbon neutrality). However, instruments with specific deadlines were deleted from the law. According to the plaintiffs, there are insufficient interim targets up to 2030 and between 2030 and 2040. In addition, there are no instruments in place to ensure that attainment of the target, except for self-reporting, and with which to respond to noncompliance with the targets.

The plaintiffs rely on the decision in (Neubauer v. Germany). Although Germany has adjusted their climate goals at the federal level, the plaintiffs argue that codification is also required at the state level, as states bear the co-responsibility for protecting lives and civil liberties, including safeguarding the natural foundations of life for future generations, within their own sphere of competence. The plaintiffs argue that the law falls short of constitutional requirements. They assert a violation of the duty to protect and a claim under fundamental rights to defend themselves against the considerable future restrictions of freedom which – in view of rapidly progressing climate change – are to be seen as inevitable and are already inherent in the omitted action of the legislature of the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen.

On January 18, 2022, the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court did not admit the eleven complaints for adjudication, on the basis of a lack of adequate prospects. Widely in alignment with its decision in Neubauer v. Germany, the Court acknowledged that greenhouse gas reduction burdens cannot be unilaterally offloaded onto the future. However, in the cases at hand, complainants’ fundamental rights were not violated preemptively, because the state legislatures are not subject to a CO2 emissions budget, which, according to the Court in Neubauer v. Germany, is a prerequisite for such an effect. Rather it is the federal German legislature that is bound by the CO2 budget, but has a prerogative with respect to its implementation. As regards the federal states, the Court clarified that they too are responsible for climate protection, in particular by virtue of Article 20a of the Basic Law. 
Case documents

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