Climate Lawsuit Against German Government Mirrors Our Children’s Trust Suit In US

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Three German farmers and Greenpeace have filed a lawsuit against the German government in the Berlin administrative court. The suit claims the government has failed to take sufficient action to meet the country’s climate protection goals for 2020. The plaintiffs allege the government has “ceased its actions…..without any legal basis and without sufficient justification or justification,” according to a report by Frankfurter Allgemeine.

climate change
Credit: Frankfurter Allgemeine.

The government’s failure to act interferes with their right to “life and health, freedom of occupation and property rights,” the farmers allege. They say that climate change has already had a dramatic negative effect on their livelihoods by leading to extreme weather-related crop failures and a decrease in the health of livestock.

Roda Verheyen, an attorney for the plaintiffs, says “The federal government has simply abandoned the 2020 goal.” In 2007 the German government set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Today, the government says it will only try to meet that target “as much as possible.”

Currently, those emissions are down roughly 32%. Good but not good enough, according to the suit. “Even here in Germany, people are already threatened existentially by climate change,” says climate expert Anike Peters of Greenpeace. “We no longer want to accept the inaction of the Federal Government, especially as it would be quite possible to achieve the climate protection goals.”

That’s easy for Anike Peters to say, but prime minister Angela Merkel has a lot on her plate these days as right-wing politicians have been successful at winning elections lately, making it difficult to keep her fragile coalition government together. She is also trying to placate a restive workforce in the automotive industry who are sensing that the transition to electric vehicles may be good for the environment but not so good for their job security.

The suit in Germany is quite similar to the Juliana vs. US suit filed by Our Children’s Trust in federal court in Oregon in 2015. That suit claims the right to a clean environment that doesn’t kill us all is a right inherent in the Constitution. The Obama administration and the Trump maladministration have vehemently opposed that notion.

Last week, at the request of the government, Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order putting the scheduled trial date in early November on hold and directing lawyers for the young plaintiffs to file written answers to questions he has about the suit by October 29. The idea that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” includes not being poisoned by the air people breath seems to be a novel concept to the conservative members of the Supreme Court.

The Constitution doesn’t specifically spell that out, nor did John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, and their confreres include a discussion of that topic during their deliberations in Philadelphia in 1787. Therefore, under the “originalist doctrine” that affects the brains of all conservative jurists, thanks to 50 years of brainwashing by the Koch Brothers and the Federalist Society, courts cannot simply infer that the Framers meant to include such liberal claptrap in the owner’s manual they created for the US government.

Odd, therefore, for Roberts and friends in their Citizens United decision blithely assert that whenever those same Framers used the word “people” in the Constitution, they obviously meant to equate corporations with human beings. Logical inconsistency is no impediment to being a constitutional scholar, apparently. Or perhaps the ideological purity of the extreme right-wing justices currently on the court is more important to them than protecting the citizens of the United States from harm.

Whatever the case, the conservatives on the court continue to take their marching orders directly from the political commissars running the Federalist Society. Apparently being a conservative these days does mean you need a weatherman to know which way the political winds are blowing.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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