In Germany this means a need for lawmakers to improve climate policy

For the first time in history, the European Union has set a uniform climate law. April saw all relevant EU institutions agreeing to legislate the EU target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The law also includes the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 55% of 1990 levels by 2030.

Following laboured negotiations, the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Council of EU States agreed to legally set the EU’s climate goals. The main topic of debate: the target for 2030.

While members of the European Parliament called for a target to reduce emissions by 60% of 1990 levels, the European Commission and the Council of EU States supported a net target of 55%, which was set in the ‘European Green Deal’ by the EU heads of state and government in December 2019. The discussions resulted in a limit of 255 million tonnes CO2 being set to the proportion of natural carbon sinks included in the 2030 target. The European Commission is now expected to adjust all of its climate-related legislation to fit the net target of 55% by June.

The law also sees the establishment of a climate council to monitor compliance with targets. Furthermore, the law has defined a budget for the EU’s greenhouse gases, setting an upper limit for emissions by 2030 and 2050. Critics have called for more to be done, but the law represents an important milestone in which the EU climate targets are legally bound for the first time.

Germany: Federal Constitutional Court declares national climate law to be partially illegitimate

Just a few days after the EU climate law was passed, Federal Constitutional Court judges in Germany pushed lawmakers to better regulate greenhouse gas reduction targets beyond 2030. The Karlsruhe judges declared both national climate protection targets set in the Climate Protection Act of 2019 and annual emission quantities permitted up to 2030 to be partially incompatible with the fundamental rights of Basic Law. The court argued that the law falls short in places and there is a lack of a concrete, forward-looking plan with sufficient specifications to further reduce CO2 emissions beyond 2030. This could mean tougher reduction targets for future generations and a subsequent disproportionate loss of freedom to protect the climate. The court also emphasized how its judgement was legally bound to the 1.5°C limit set by the Paris Agreement.

The Federal Constitutional Court therefore is calling lawmakers to adapt national climate protection measures and better define targets for reducing CO2 emissions beyond 2030 by the end of next year.

Germany raises climate ambitions: net-zero emissions by 2045

The German government reacted promptly to the judgement and increased their climate targets. Now, emissions are required to be 65% of 1990 levels by 2030 and 85-90% by 2040. Instead of climate neutrality by 2050, the net-zero target has been moved to 2045. Should the cabinet come to a decision on these targets next week, Germany will have the second most ambitious emission reduction target for 2030 behind Great Britain. How exactly this target will be concretely implemented is still to be defined.

For more detailed information regarding the climate judgement of the Federal Constitutional Court, click here: