Wave of climate protection lawsuits expected


Climate change has reached the courts. You will have read in the press about a recent, sensational decision by the Federal Constitutional Court. According to this, the state has an obligation to protect the life and health of future generations (BVerfG, decision dated 24.03.2021, 1 BvR 2656/18 et al.). The state is therefore obliged to achieve climate neutrality and to make a special commitment to climate protection.

Seven environmental protection associations have sued Shell before a civil court in The Hague. For the first time, a multinational corporation has been obliged by a court ruling to make a contribution to achieving the Paris climate targets. The court in The Hague ruled that Shell must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a net 45 percent by 2030 compared with 2019 levels.

For the past 4 years, a Peruvian farmer (supported by environmental groups) has been involved in a legal dispute against RWE before the Higher Regional Court in Hamm, Germany, claiming that the energy company should bear a share of the costs of securing his land against flooding caused by a local glacier melting due to the greenhouse effect. RWE's share of the costs was to correspond to RWE's share of global greenhouse gas emissions (0.47%). After the first instance had rejected the claim on formal grounds, the Higher Regional Court has in the meantime declared the claim to be conclusive, i.e. it intends to uphold the claim if the plaintiff's factual assertions regarding the causal connection are correct. It has therefore decided to take expert evidence as to whether an actual connection can be established between RWE's emissions on the one hand and the threat to the plaintiff's property on the other. An on-site visit to the Andes is even imminent.

Finally, environmental associations have recently announced that they will file lawsuits in the near future against energy producers and automobile manufacturers in Germany because of their climate-damaging emissions and products. Industrial agriculture has also become the focus of climate activists. The wave of lawsuits is thus foreseeably large and will sooner or later reach every company that emits greenhouse gases.

We want you to be prepared for this. OPPENLÄNDER Rechtsanwälte is prepared for lawsuits of this kind like no other law firm. For more than 20 years, we have been handling major cases and large litigation complexes from the fields of energy law and tort law. We specialize in difficult questions of damage attribution. We have one of the best-known public law practice groups in Germany. Therefore, we would be very pleased to assist you in defending claims for damages.

Reserve your team of lawyers in good time. We are at your disposal for a first informative discussion. Please contact us at klimarecht@oppenlaender.de.

To clarify, climate change affects us all. It will require significant changes from all of us. The Federal Constitutional Court has called on and obliged politicians to act. We believe that the fight against climate change is a societal task, but not a task for individual compensation and damages in civil courts. Therefore, we consider the defense against claims for damages that are not justified in our view to be legitimate.