German climate groups plan legal action against car giants

German environmental groups on Friday announced legal strikes against car giants Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW for forcing them to sharply reduce emissions, buoyed by recent court victories in favor of climate protection.

Greenpeace Germany and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) said they have sent a letter of claim to three carmakers asking them to commit to more ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions, including ending the production of fossil-fuel cars by 2030. has been called for.

If they do not respond to the letter in the coming weeks and stop their “illegal behaviour”, the NGO said they are ready to file a lawsuit in court.

“We are holding the companies responsible that have been destroying our environment for years,” DUH executive director Sasha Müller-Krenner said at a news conference.

While all three car companies have announced plans to transition from diesel and petrol cars to more environmentally friendly electric vehicles, the plaintiffs say their goals are vague and non-binding.

“The companies’ electrification plans are not ambitious enough and too slow. They will not be enough to avert the climate crisis,” said Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser.

A fourth company, the German oil and gas firm Wintershall Dea, is also being targeted in legal proceedings for its role in the climate emergency.

The complaints, if they go ahead, would be a first in Germany.

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a landmark decision by Germany’s constitutional court in April, which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement and put a strain on future generations. undue burden.

In a major victory for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government extended its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

Greenpeace’s Kaiser said the plaintiffs also got “a tailwind” from a court ruling in the Netherlands in May that ordered oil giant Shell to reduce its carbon emissions by 2030.

– ‘No basis’ –

Friday for Future activist Clara Meyer, who is serving as a plaintiff in the case against VW, said the recent deadly floods in West Germany showed that the climate emergency was “now right outside our front door”. Is”.

He said VW, as the world’s largest carmaker and a major CO2 emitter, had “an enormous responsibility”.

The 12-brand group, which also includes Audi, Porsche and koda, said in a statement that it did not believe the campaigner’s legal route was “an appropriate way to address significant social challenges”.

It said VW was investing 35 billion euros ($41 billion) to become a global leader in electric vehicles by 2025.

Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler meanwhile said it “sees no grounds” for seeking an injunction and vowed to defend itself “by all legal means” when it comes to trial.

Luxury carmaker BMW reiterated that the company is committed to the Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

The threat of legal action against carmakers comes days before one of the world’s biggest IAA auto shows opens its doors in Munich.

Climate campaigners have vowed to hold protests to disrupt the event.


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