Bavaria: environmental aid withdraws climate lawsuit against state government – Bavaria

The German Environmental Aid has surprisingly withdrawn its lawsuit before the Bavarian Administrative Court (VGH) against the climate protection policy of the state government. This was announced by the lawyer for environmental aid (DUH), Remo Klinger, on Thursday at the end of a hearing that lasted several hours. The reason is purely legal considerations – in terms of content, environmental aid is sticking to its sharp criticism of Bavarian climate policy and is already threatening a new lawsuit in two years at the latest. The presiding judge Gerda Zimmerer then discontinued the proceedings.

Klinger and DUH Federal Managing Director Jürgen Resch justified the withdrawal of the current lawsuit with the legal opinion of the court. In fact, during the oral hearing on Thursday, the judges had clear doubts as to whether they considered the environmental aid lawsuit to be permissible from a purely legal point of view. The background is that such lawsuits against plans and programs are only possible under very specific legal conditions. In addition, the court obviously wants to give the state government time to prove that the climate protection goals it has set itself can also be achieved, argued Resch.

Bavaria has had its own climate protection law since January 2021. There is now a new version with more ambitious CO₂ reduction targets. Since then, concrete climate protection measures have been included in an associated climate protection program, for example to protect moors and forests. However, environmental aid – like many other critics – considers these measures to be insufficient to achieve the CO₂ reduction targets set out in the law.

In an expert hearing in the state parliament, the climate protection policy of the state government had therefore failed across the board. Experts from science and business criticized the measures as too vague and insufficient. The environmental aid criticized that Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) and his cabinet had not yet presented an “effective” climate protection program. Instead, the state government had only presented “a random list” without even claiming that these measures were suitable for achieving the climate protection goals.

“This is a climate policy blind flight”

Prosecutor General Jörg Vogel, on the other hand, argued in court that the claim that the climate protection measures were inappropriate was made “in the dark”. Klinger countered this with sharp criticism of the measures, which environmental aid felt were far from sufficient: “This is a climate policy blind flight that you are doing,” said the lawyer. He spoke of a “colorful loose-leaf collection without a specific goal”.

However, the judges made it clear several times during the hearing that they could ultimately dismiss the lawsuit as inadmissible. The presiding judge, Gerda Zimmerer, referred to a legal distinction that had to be made: It is legally different if – as in Bavaria – a climate protection program already exists or if there isn’t one yet. That was the case in Baden-Württemberg, for example. The highest administrative court there then obliged the state government to adopt a climate protection concept.

In addition, Zimmerer said that the court hesitated to declare the measures in the Bavarian climate protection program as insufficient after just a few months. “It’s hard for us to say it has to be perfect now,” she explained. Her colleague added: “We also see it that the Free State will have to deliver at some point.” However, the court is not sure whether the state government can already be condemned to do it “better” if the effect of the measures is not yet known for sure.

Resch said that after the planned changes in the law, a new, admissible lawsuit would come “in two years at the latest”. On the other hand, one would be happy if this were not necessary – “if the Bavarian state government actually improves”. A spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment said the Free State had taken the view from the outset that the DUH’s lawsuit was inadmissible and unfounded. “The new Bavarian climate protection law contains clearly regulated and ambitious goals,” he argued. With the new law and the climate protection program, “a powerful package for climate protection in Bavaria” has been launched. It is regularly evaluated and continuously adjusted.

CSU General Secretary Martin Huber said: “The fact that the lawsuit against the Bavarian climate protection law was withdrawn because it was hopeless is a resounding slap in the face for German environmental aid.” Head of the State Chancellery Florian Herrmann (CSU) attacked the DUH even more severely, for example as a “lobby and warning club”. He demanded that the DUH should focus on real help for the environment instead of quick publicity and questionable advocacy groups.

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