Climate inaction violates our rights, say activists in Germany case

FILE PHOTO: Greenpeace activists pose after they painted a street yellow in a protest to call for quick exit to coal fired power in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2018. Banner reads "Sun instead coal". REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Environmental activists Greenpeace have teamed up with three families to sue the German government with the aim of forcing it to meet climate protection goals earlier than it had planned, magazine Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

The case, brought by Greenpeace on behalf of the three German families, alleges that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, by failing to tackle climate change with sufficient urgency, was infringing their right to life and health.

The filing mirrors a recent case in the Netherlands, where an appeals court handed down a binding ruling ordering The Hague to cut greenhouse gas emissions faster than planned. The Dutch government said it would abide by the ruling.

In 2007, Berlin committed to cutting emissions of greenhouses gases by 40 percent from their 1990 levels by the end of this decade, but the latest government program says the 2020 goal will be met “only to the extent possible”, with a 32 percent cut thought an achievable goal.

“The government has simply abandoned their 2020 goal,” said Roda Verheyen, the group’s advocate.

The three plaintiffs, all families of organic farmers, say their farms and livelihoods are endangered by climate change, with pest attacks, harvest failures and ill-health in their livestock costing them and their children money.

According to their claim, this further infringes their freedom to exercise a profession as well as their property rights.

“We can no longer accept the inaction of the government,” Greenpeace’s climate expert Anike Peters told the magazine. “Especially when it would be possible to achieve the climate protection goals.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson