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CLIMATE CRISIS

German farmer sues Volkswagen over CO2 emissions

A German court on Friday began hearing a case against the Volkswagen group brought by a farmer who claims the pollution caused by the automotive giant is infringing on his rights.

Organic farmer Ulf Allhoff-Cramer is challenging Volkswagen along with Greenpeace over climate damage.
Organic farmer Ulf Allhoff-Cramer is challenging Volkswagen along with Greenpeace over climate damage. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

Ulf Allhoff-Cramer, an organic farmer from the Rhineland town of Detmold, backed by the Greenpeace campaign group, says Volkswagen’s emissions are significantly contributing to climate change and therefore damaging his business.

He claims this is interfering with his fundamental rights to property, health and freedom.

“A corporation with such gigantic CO2 emissions as VW is partly responsible for the damage caused by the climate crisis,” Roda Verheyen, Allholf-Cramer’s lawyer, was cited as saying by Greenpeace ahead of the proceedings.

If the group does not reduce its emissions much faster than currently planned, it will be harming others and therefore behaving “unlawfully”, she said.

However, a spokesman for the court in Detmold on Friday said it had expressed clear doubts about the success of the lawsuit.

The case was adjourned until September to allow time for the farmer to submit additional written evidence and to allow Volkswagen time to comment.

READ ALSO: How climate change is threatening Germany’s forests 

The automotive group has previously rejected his allegations as “unfounded”.

He is trying to claim “individual liability for general consequences of climate change” and that “in our view cannot succeed”, the carmaker said.

Allhoff-Cramer and Greenpeace want to force VW to reduce the proportion of cars it makes with combustion engines to 25 percent by 2029, and to end production of combustion engine vehicles completely by 2030.

They also want VW to reduce its CO2 emissions by 65 percent compared to 2018.

The plaintiffs accuse VW of having known about the dangers of global warming for decades.

READ ALSO: Germany chooses Greenpeace chief as first climate envoy

They say research has shown the board was warned at a meeting in 1983 of the consequences of increasing carbon dioxide emissions and the threat of climate change.

The Volkswagen group – whose 12 brands include Audi, Porsche and Skoda – is pumping 35 billion euros into the shift to electric vehicles and aims to become the world’s largest electric carmaker by 2025.

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POLITICS

German climate activists hit back at Scholz’s ‘Nazi’ comparison

Prominent activists in Germany have responded with fury after Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) appeared to link climate protesters with Nazis.

German climate activists hit back at Scholz's 'Nazi' comparison

Writing on Twitter on Sunday evening, Luisa Neubauer, a lead organiser in the German Fridays for Future movement, said that Scholz’s words had left her “speechless”.

“Where do you start? The Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany plays down Nazi rule in just one half-sentence, and paradoxically the climate crisis at the same time,” she wrote. “He presents climate protection as an ideology with parallels to Nazi rule. In 2022. Jesus. This is such a scandal.” 

Scholz had been speaking at a Catholic Day event on Friday as demonstrators entered and caused a commotion. One activist reportedly tried to get up on stage but their path was blocked by security staff. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

Another activist shouted “bullshit” loudly when Scholz was talking about the phase-out of coal-fired power generation and the jobs that would be lost in open-cast mining as a result.

In response to the disruption, the chancellor said: “I’ll be honest, these black-clad displays at various events by the same people over and over reminds me of a time that, thank god, is long behind us.”

He went on to accuse the demonstrators of a “practised performance” and said they were attempting to manipulate the event for their own purposes.

“You shouldn’t do that,” he added, to applause from the audience.

In a long Twitter thread, Neubauer pointed out that more than 100,000 jobs had been lost “through the energy policies of the CDU and also the SPD over the last decades” – presumably referring to jobs in the renewable energies sector.

“Fossil jobs under powerful lobbies obviously count more than other jobs for certain parties,” she said. 

Some commentators also responded angrily to the fact that Spiegel had run with a headline that suggested Neubauer was “accusing” Scholz of the Nazi comparison. 

“Instead of ‘Climate activist Neubauer accuses Scholz of Nazi comparison’, it should read: ‘Scholz shocks with Nazi comparison’,” one journalist wrote, referring to the Spiegel headline

However, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper pointed out that his words could also be understood as a reference to the radicalised student activist groups of the 1970s – an era that Scholz experienced, at least in part. 

As of Monday, Scholz had not clarified his statements. 

Global warming of 1.5C ‘by 2026’

UN meteorologists recently warned the world could reach temperatures of 1.5C higher than pre-industralised levels by 2026, exceeding the upper limit laid out in the Paris Agreement and causing significant damage to our ecosystem.

Germany – a major polluter within the European Union – is currently set to miss its climate targets. 

Activists have accused its governing coalition of being too unambitious in its energy transition goals and of indirectly funding the war in Ukraine through its reliance on fossil fuels from Russia. 

READ ALSO: 

The coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) says it wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 and generate 80 percent of its energy through renewable sources by 2030.

It has also set its sights on a coal phase-out by 2030, though this is carefully worded in the coalition pact to suggest that it will only be done “if possible”. 

Meanwhile, young environmentalists are fighting for the government to adopt a strict CO2 budget.

They also demand a binding coal phase-out by 2030, a ban on the installation of fossil combustion engines from 2025 and an immediate stop to the construction and expansion of motorways and federal roads.

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