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Marlene Lemme, et al. v. State of Bayern (subsidiary claim)

Jurisdiction: Bayern Constitutional Court

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

Side A: Marlene Lemme, David Schiepek, Lukas Schulz, Stefan Emmerichs, Julius Papst, Kaspar Seßner, Friedl Seßner, Andreas Mäckler, Clara Göppel -Ramsurn, and Lucie Göppel-Ramsurn (Individual)

Side B: State of Bayern (Government)

Core objectives: The inadequacy of a climate protection law in the State of Bayern.

On June 30, 2021, youth plaintiffs Marlene Lemme, David Schiepek, Lukas Schulz, Stefan Emmerichs, Julius Papst, Kaspar Seßner, Friedl Seßner, Andreas Mäckler, Clara Göppel-Ramsurn and Lucie Göppel-Ramsurn brought a claim against the state of Bavaria for the inadequacy of its adopted climate law (2020 Climate Protection Act; BayKlimaG). This action is subsidiary to a constitutional claim by the same plaintiffs, to be declared settled provided that the constitutional complaint is upheld. 

The law under review, Bavaria’s 2020 Climate Protection Act (BayKlimaG) aims to: (i) reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels, to 5 tons per inhabitant per year by 2030; and (ii) achieve climate neutrality by 2050. From 2030 onwards, the state is required to offset any emissions above the permitted levels. To achieve these goals, the state set up a climate protection program. The plaintiffs claim that the law lacks provisions for setting annual emission levels, specifications on sector-specific targets, deadlines for the climate protection program, compliance and adaptation monitoring. Plaintiffs argued that these measures are insufficient to achieve the overall federal targets of the Federal Climate Protection Act.

The plaintiffs relied on the Constitutional Court’s decision in Neubauer v. Germany, following which the German government was ordered to adjust its climate goals at the federal level. Plaintiffs argue that ambitious climate protection is also required at the state level to achieve carbon neutrality. Plaintiffs submit that states bear co-responsibility for protecting lives and civil liberties, including safeguarding the natural foundations of life for future generations, within their own sphere of competence. Plaintiffs argued that the Bavarian law falls short of these constitutional requirements. Plaintiffs asserted a violation by the state of its duty to protect, and invoked their constitutional rights, to defend themselves against considerable future restrictions on their freedoms which – in view of rapidly progressing climate change – are to be considered inevitable and are already reflected in the inadequate action of the legislature of Bavaria.

In light of this, plaintiffs argue that the Bavarian Climate Protection Act needs to be adjusted, as it fails to establish a minimum structure to ensure equal burden-sharing and restrictions on fundamental rights across generations; lacks legally regulated time limits for establishing a climate protection program; and fails to set interim goals for the period until 2030. According to plaintiffs, it also fails to specify yearly emissions limits, sector specific targets, or regulate mechanism for the updating of reduction goals and does not set provisions for readjusting emissions targets. Plaintiffs argue that national climate protection and reduction goals can only be reached if adequate governance structures are in place at the state level. 

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, including the constitutional claim against Bavaria. 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. A decision on this subsidiary claim before the Bavarian Constitutional Court is still pending.
Case documents

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