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ENVIRONMENT

Deutsche Bahn to stop using cancer-linked pesticide on its tracks

German state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn is to stop using glyphosate on its tracks and is looking for substitutes to replace the weedkiller, one of its board members said in an interview Friday.

Deutsche Bahn to stop using cancer-linked pesticide on its tracks
A train traveling along Deutsche Bahn's A train along the Hanover-Würzburg route. Photo: DPA

“We want to set up a research project to find effective ways to operate our 33,000 kilometres of network without glyphosate to be environmentally friendly,” infrastructure chief Ronald Pofalla told the weekly business magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

The rail operator is Germany's largest user of glyphosate and buys nearly 65 tonnes of the herbicide per year to stop weeds from propagating on its tracks.

SEE ALSO: How Deutsche Bahn plans to improve its service and routes

German Environmental Minister Svenja Schulze welcomed the initiative.

“Glyphosate kills insects which is why we are going to ban it in Germany,” she told WirtschaftsWoche.

The World Health Organization classifies glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic”.

In December 2017, the European Union renewed the licence of glyphosate across Europe until 2022.

Among the possible alternatives Deutsche Bahn is looking at to kill off the weeds are “hot water, electric shocks or UV lights”, according to WirtschaftsWoche.

One of the best-known glyphosate-based products is the weedkiller Roundup manufactured by Monsanto, the US company recently taken over by Germany's Bayer, and which has been at the centre of several health-related lawsuits.

Last year, Deutsche Bahn transported a record 148 million people on its main lines in Germany while across Europe 2.6 billion passengers travelled on trains belonging to the red-and-white-liveried company.

SEE ALSO: How Deutsche Bahn plans to improve its service and staffing in 2019

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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