2022 Children and young people Deciding Body Emissions reductions/mitigation European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights Germany Keywords Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life Rights at stake State concerned Uncategorized Year

Engels, Steinmetz and Others v. Germany (1 BvR 188/22)


Following the Neubauer v. Germany case, nine teenagers and young adults brought an application to the European Court of Human Rights complaining that the new objectives of the German Climate Protection Act, as amended after the judgement of the the German Federal Constitutional Court and entered into force on 31 August 2021, are insufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the level necessary for meeting the Paris Agreement temperature goals (well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels) and that this would violate Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Domestic proceedings:

On 24 June 2022 it was announced that the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht or BVerfG) had refused to hear a case following up on its groundbreaking Neubauer judgment of 24 March 2021. This follow-up litigation was brought by nine young people, who sought a further strengthening of German climate protection policy with the support of the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe. The applicants, who were aged 13 to 26 at the time of filing, were previously involved in the Neubauer case, where the BVerfG found that German climate policy posed a threat to the fundamental freedoms of future generations. In this follow-up case, they sought a judgment from the BVerfG demanding faster and more effective climate protection measures.

After the Neubauer judgment, the German government changed the German Federal Climate Change Act of 12 December 2019 (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz – KSG) governing national climate targets and the emissions allowed annually to provide for higher levels of mitigation action.In this case, the applicants argue that the new version of the KSG still does not guarantee that Germany will meet its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, and that it therefore does not ensure the limitation of anthropogenic climate change to the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5 degrees. The applicants argue that the revised KSG reduces emissions by only about 6.5 percent by 2030, and draw on IPCC reports showing that the 1.5-degree target could be exceeded in around ten years’ time.The legal argumentation brought forward here was similar to that in Neubauer. The applicants argued that their fundamental freedoms are under threat, and invoked Article 20a of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz).

In an unreasoned decision, the BVerfG refused to accept this case for decision on 25 May 2022.

Application to the ECtHR:
Counsel in the case, together with the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe, announced that they would take this case the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. A corresponding application was lodged before the Court in September 2022 and received application number 46906/22. The Court then adjourned the case pending the outcome of the three climate cases pending before its Grand Chamber (Verein Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (no. 53600/20), Carême v. France (no. 7189/21) and Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others (no. 39371/20)).

More information:
The decision by the German Bundesverfassungsgericht has not yet been published. For reporting on the case, see LTO.

Part of the application made to the ECtHR has been made public by the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe, which is supporting the applicants, here (in German). This document contains the supplementary argumentation appended to the standardized application form.

Suggested citation:
German Bundesverfassungsgericht, Judgment of the First Senate of 25 May 2022 – 1 BvR 188/22.

European Court of Human Rights, Engels v. Germany (no. 46906/22), filed in September 2022 (not yet communicated).

Last updated:

1 August 2023

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