It has been clear for a few weeks now when no new cars with combustion engines will be registered in Europe: from 2035 onwards, according to the EU Commission. But environmentalists calculate that individual car manufacturers will no longer be able to sell petrol or diesel vehicles much earlier if they want to achieve the goals defined in the Paris climate agreement. That is why the German Environmental Aid (DUH) is suing German car companies. Before the Munich district court, for example, it said on Tuesday: environmental aid against bmw.
It is not the first lawsuit of this kind that the environmentalists have brought: In the summer, representatives of the DUH and the car manufacturer Mercedes sat down in front of the Stuttgart district court. In September the court dismissed the lawsuit. The reasoning: It is up to the legislator to decide which measures are to be taken to meet the climate protection goals. This cannot be anticipated by an individual action before a civil court. The procedure goes to the next instance, the Higher Regional Court. It may not be the end there either.
What happens if the current laws are not enough?
The Civil Chamber in Munich is now faced with the same question: there are national climate protection laws and measures planned across Europe, such as the end of combustion engines in 2035. But what if that is not enough to meet the Paris requirements? Can individual car manufacturers then be condemned to sell the last combustion engine much earlier? “A car is driven on average for 14.2 years,” says environmental aid lawyer Remo Klinger. But if you want to be climate-neutral by 2045, you can’t do that without stopping sales much earlier than 2035.
The environmentalists recently got a boost from a Analysis by Greenpeace, from which the presiding judge of the civil chamber, Peter Falk, also quoted at the beginning of the hearing. In it, the organization calculates that the car industry’s sales plans for the sale of combustion engines are “incompatible with the climate target of 1.5 degrees”. The switch to climate-neutral drives should happen much faster. So far, BMW has not set a target when it wants to sell the last combustion engine. The group is committed to the Paris climate goals, but the legislator is responsible for issuing the necessary rules. “The plenary hall instead of the courtroom” is what the carmaker calls it.
decision in February
And this time it looks as if the trial will end in favor of the industry, the district court wants to announce a decision on February 7, 2023. Judge Falk has already indicated that he considers the lawsuit to be unfounded. First of all, one has to observe how the laws on the climate protection which are still comparatively new – and whether the government will take countermeasures if the CO₂ emissions of individual sectors do not fall as planned. He still sees “no state failure,” said Falk. But he also pointed out that this assessment could change in a few years. From these words, the environmentalists draw their hope of perhaps being successful in the next instances.