Germany brings climate targets forward after court rebuke

Ruling coalition pledges faster cuts to emission levels

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 15, 2021 shows wind turbines near the coal-fired power station Neurath of German energy giant RWE in Garzweiler, western Germany. The German government said on May 5, 2021 it would set more ambitious targets to reduce CO2 emissions after a landmark ruling by the country's top court declared a flagship climate protection law "insufficient". The government now expects to slash emissions by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, going further than the current goal of a 55 percent reduction. / AFP / Ina FASSBENDER
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Germany is setting new climate change targets for cutting emissions after a court ruled its current goals contravene the rights of children and young adults.

Ministers now want to bring forward the country’s switch to climate neutrality – or net-zero carbon emissions – by five years to 2045.

Berlin announced the move on Wednesday after the country’s constitutional court deemed a flagship climate protection law “insufficient”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and its centre-left coalition partner the SPD are lagging behind the Greens in popularity surveys.

“We want to make our goals more precise,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

The court ruled last Thursday that German emissions targets did not set a clear enough timeline for emissions reductions beyond 2030.

Current measures could “irreversibly offload major emission reduction burdens” on to the period after 2030, thereby impeding the freedom of future generations, it said.

It demanded that the government set annual emission targets for the period after 2030 in an improved plan to be put forward by December next year.

The government now aims to reduce emissions to 65 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030 and 88 per cent by 2040.

“Young people have reminded us that we are going too slowly rather than too quickly,” Mrs Merkel said.

She said the constitutional court ruling made clear that “you can’t just have freedoms for the generations alive today, you must also think about the freedoms of future generations”.

“This is a new legal perspective that could have many consequences and impresses upon us that we must do more.”

With the general election imminent, in September, the government is under pressure to show it takes environmental issues seriously.