German court dismisses Greenpeace’s case against Volkswagen

Germany's biggest carmakers have been dragged into several cases by climate activists.

A German court on Tuesday rejected a case brought by climate group Greenpeace against Volkswagen to get the car giant to stop selling petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030. 

The plaintiffs, the two heads of Greenpeace Germany and climate activist Clara Meyer, had also sought to force the world’s second-largest carmaker to reduce emissions by 65 percent by 2030 as compared to 2018.

Greenpeace’s case is based on a landmark verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April, 2021, which found government plans to curb CO2 emissions insufficient to meet Paris climate agreement targets.

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As a consequence of that ruling, former chancellor Angela Merkel’s government brought forward its date for Germany to achieve carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

Greenpeace vs Volkswagen

In their case against Volkswagen, Greenpeace contends that the same obligation extends to private companies.

But the court in Braunschweig rejected the environmental group’s claims, saying that the legislature has already fulfilled its obligations to protect citizens’ rights through its improved climate protection act.

“The obligations of a company in the private sector do not extend further than the state’s duties of protection,” said the court.

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Volkswagen said the court had essentially confirmed its view by dismissing the case.

“Climate lawsuits against individually singled out companies are the wrong way and have no basis in law,” said the group in a statement. 

More legal challenges against Volkswagen

But one of the plaintiffs, Roland Hipp, vowed to bring further legal challenges against Volkswagen.

“The last word has not been spoken in our climate complaint against Volkswagen, the decision of the court is just an intermediate step,” he said.

“We are planning further legal steps and are confident that we will also be able to legally move Volkswagen to do more to protect the climate.” 

Germany’s biggest carmakers have been dragged into several cases by climate activists.

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Last week, BMW won a similar case brought by activists at Deutsche Umwelthilfe seeking to stop it from selling combustion engine cars from 2030. 

Greenpeace is also backing a court case being heard in Detmold against Volkswagen brought by a farmer who claims the pollution caused by the automotive giant is infringing on his rights.

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