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ENVIRONMENT

German city residents sue government over air pollution

Seven residents in Germany are taking the government to court over the poor air quality around their homes, an organisation representing them said on Monday.

Cars, trucks and delivery vehicles drive into Berlin.
Cars, trucks and delivery vehicles drive into Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The residents of Berlin, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich believe current government legislation is “demonstrably inadequate to protect people’s health”, according to the organisation, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

Levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in Germany are up to five times higher than the safe levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to DUH.

The complainants are calling for immediate action to bring about “a reduction in dangerous air pollutants from, among other things, traffic, wood burning and agriculture”, said Juergen Resch, national director of DUH.

“Politicians are doing too little to protect people like me who live on a busy road,” said complainant Volker Becker-Battaglia, from Munich.

This time last year, a new coalition government was elected in Germany on a promise to make environmental concerns one of its top priorities.

READ ALSO: Germany should ditch Christmas lights this year, says environmental group

The Greens entered power for the first time in more than two decades, promising that Germany would end coal power and generate 80 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.

But since then, climate concerns have been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, an acute energy crisis and record inflation.

Germany has accelerated plans to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) by sea and has even decided to reactivate mothballed coal-fired power plants.

In 2021, climate activists won a landmark victory in Germany when the constitutional court ruled that the government’s climate plans were insufficient and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

German environmental groups also last year announced a legal offensive against car giants Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW over their emissions.

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ENVIRONMENT

Germany criticises Egypt on human rights ahead of COP27

Berlin on Sunday accused Egypt of not living up to its human rights obligations as the country prepares to host global leaders for the closely-watched COP27 climate talks.

Germany criticises Egypt on human rights ahead of COP27

The German government’s human rights commissioner, Luise Amtsberg, urged summit host Egypt to release jailed dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah, currently on hunger strike, and his lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer.

“The fact that people who want to express their opinions freely and stand up for that right are punished with long prison sentences — sometimes under inhumane conditions — is unacceptable,” Amtsberg said in a statement.

“Assuming global responsibility also means, above all, assuming responsibility for the protection of human rights,” Amtsberg said.

“However, the human rights situation in Egypt does not do justice to this.”

Releasing Abdel Fattah and other political prisoners would send “an important signal” that Egypt takes its human rights responsibilities seriously, she added.

Cairo has faced frequent criticism over its human rights record since it was announced as COP27 host last year, a move rights groups said “rewards the repressive rule” of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Rights groups estimate that some 60,000 political prisoners are behind bars in Egypt, many of them in brutal conditions and overcrowded cells, accusations Cairo rejects.

Fifteen Nobel laureates last week joined calls for Egypt to free Abdel Fattah, a major figure in the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

The Egyptian-British writer and philosopher is serving a five-year sentence for “broadcasting false news”, having already spent much of the past decade behind bars.

He is currently on hunger strike and his relatives have warned that if he is not released during the climate conference, he will probably die in prison as he is due to stop drinking fluids from Sunday, the opening day of COP27.

Nearly 200 countries will be attending the talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, set to run until November 18.

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