The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany considers it is up to the federal government to set goals for states in order to achieve net zero objectives.
Several young Germans supported by the Environmental Action Germany filed complaints against 10 German states arguing their future was not adequately protected. They claimed Länder didn't have proper regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe dismissed the complaints in a decision released on February 1.
The Court doesn't object the right to sue states if citizens consider they have insufficient laws to protect the environment. But it considers the complaints need to precisely quantify the infringement.
No carbon budget defined for Länder
As a consequence, Länder need to be clearly liable against a carbon budget, upon which the comparison can be made to know if they fail to protect the environment.
There is however no such rule that holds each state accountable.
There is such a law at the federal level though. The Climate Change Act 2021 aims at reducing emissions by 65% of 1990 levels by 2030 in order to become carbon neutral by 2045.
For the Court, the federal administration is responsible for determining the appropriate actions states would then implement.
The goals of carbon emission reductions are currently set by industry. It is then up to the federal authorities to consider whether there is need to implement state-level regulations.
"The resistance of some states, such as Bavaria, to the regulation for wind turbines leaves considerable doubts as to whether this will work without state-specific federal regulations", lawyer Remo Klinger representing the plaintiffs said in the Environmental Action Germany statement.
The Environmental Action Germany asks the federal government to determine the contributions the states have to make to comply with the Paris Agreement.
In April 2021, the Federal Constitutional Court found parts of the Federal Climate Protection Act unconstitutional. In fact, the law needed to set clearer targets for cutting carbon emissions after 2030 to become carbon neutral by 2045.