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Otis Hoffman, et al. v. State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Jurisdiction: Federal Constitutional Court


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


Side A: Otis Hoffman, Camille Marie Damm, Hannes Damm, and two children (Individual)


Side B: State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Government)


Core objectives: The lack of a climate protection law in the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.


Summary
On September 9, 2021, Otis Hoffman, Camille Marie Damm, Hannes Damm, and two children brought a claim against the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, arguing that the state’s failure to adopt a climate law violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. The plaintiffs rely on the Paris Agreement and the German Constitution to demand that the state legislature sets a pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to comply with the remaining CO2 budget to achieve carbon neutrality (calculated and distributed over the remaining period until the 1.5oC target is achieved), especially considering the Federal Climate Protection Act, and the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2045. The temperature targets are informed by the Paris Agreement. In June 2021, a climate bill was introduced to the state parliament. The bill was rejected in April 2021.

Consistent with the German TKTK court’s decision in (Neubauer v. Germany), the German national government has adjusted its climate goals. 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 lack of legislation at the state level is unconstitutional given that the state has failed to protect citizens against climate change. The plaintiffs argue they have a fundamental right 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 already inherent in the omitted action of the legislature of the State of of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

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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