Oil report

German court to rule on farmers' climate change challenge

BERLIN, Oct 31 (Reuters) - A family of farmers worried that their windswept North Sea island will be engulfed by rising sea-levels is among a Greenpeace-led group of plaintiffs seeking a court ruling that Germany must act faster on climate change.

At a hearing in Berlin on Thursday, the Backsens and two other farming families will argue that their fundamental rights are being infringed by the government’s failure to cut emissions at the pace it had promised.

The lawsuit mirrors a similar case in the Netherlands where a group of around 900 citizens last year forced the Dutch government to accelerate its plans to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change.

“We decided to join this case because we believe the federal government must at last do its duty and meet its climate goals for 2020,” said Silke Backsen, whose family have ploughed the farm for over 300 years.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government originally promised to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 40% compared to 1990 levels by next year. That goal was abandoned in 2018. But Greenpeace, citing a report by the government-backed Fraunhofer institute, says the 2020 goal can still be reached.

Berlin’s Administrative Court is expected to deliver a ruling on Thursday on whether the case is justiciable. If it is, a further ruling is expected on whether the rights of the farming families are being infringed. In either event, appeals are all but certain.

A series of unseasonably hot summers have propelled climate change to the top of the agenda in Germany, with thousands of people inspired by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg taking to the streets to demand swifter action.

Activists were disappointed by a package Berlin agreed last month aimed at meeting emissions targets by 2030, saying the magnitude of the climate crisis meant the government should have gone further.

Sophie Backsen, who fears that the island of Pellworm and the farm on it may no longer be there to inherit when she comes of age, is among them.

“So many young people protesting in Germany and the whole world. And then the government comes up with a package like that on the very same day,” she said. (Reporting by Reuters TV, Thomas Escritt, additional reporting by Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Editing by Janet Lawrence)