German farmers sue government over missed climate targets

Heiner Luetke Schwienhorst has joined forces with two other German farmers and Greenpeace to challenge the government's failure
Heiner Luetke Schwienhorst has joined forces with two other German farmers and Greenpeace to challenge the government's failure to meet its own climate targets

Dismayed by the German government's failure to meet climate protection targets, dairy farmer Heiner Luetke Schwienhorst has filed a lawsuit against Berlin to force it into action.

"Some describe this as a fight between David and Goliath. To me, that's besides the point," said Schwienhorst, who suffered his poorest harvest in three decades after a record drought.

"The attitude of political representatives, the way they trivialise by giving up what they have set, is something that we need to bring to political accountability. That is important," he told AFP.

Together with two other farmers and Greenpeace, Schwienhorst has launched a challenge against the German government for having "given up" trying to achieve cuts in greenhouse gas emissions set out under its own climate target, as well as under European law.

A dairy farmer near Hamburg and a livestock farmer on the North Sea island of Pellworm have joined the first such lawsuit to seek "climate protection, not monetary compensation".

Berlin had pledged to take action to slash in Germany by 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

But in its latest annual climate protection report published in June, the government admitted that it was now expecting to achieve 32 percent in reductions compared to 1990.

The shortfall of 8 percentage points is equivalent to about 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The German government's failure to meet its own targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions is simply down to a lack of political wi
The German government's failure to meet its own targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions is simply down to a lack of political wil, says Greenpeace
"It was clear in the climate protection report that the government is not planning to take further measures in order to reach the target. Instead, it has simply given up," said Anike Peters of Greenpeace.

"We're saying we're not going to accept this. Because it's not about a lack of technical possibilities to reach the target, rather it's about a lack of political will.

'Do what you promised'

With the help of lawyer Roda Verheyen, the plaintiffs lodged their case at the administrative court in Berlin at the end of October.

The court now needs to decide if there is any merit to the case.

Verheyen is no stranger to such climate cases.

In another high profile case in Germany, she helped bring to court a challenge by a Peruvian farmer against energy giant RWE over climate change damage in the Andes.

While the initial ruling went against them, the case is now at the appeals court.

Farmer Heiner Luetke Schwienhorst says the changing climate has already hit his crop production
Farmer Heiner Luetke Schwienhorst says the changing climate has already hit his crop production

Verheyen said that in her latest case, the issue is whether the government can be held liable for failing to implement climate protection measures, as the targets it set are not written into law.

"Here the plaintiff families say, yes. Do what you've promised, government, implement the 2020 climate protection goal."

The environment ministry, which is taking the lead in responding to the case, said the plaintiffs had every right to bring the issue to court "to seek public attention" and increase the pressure for better climate protection.

"Although Germany's climate protection efforts have made progress, they have not yet reached our goals," ministry spokesman Andreas Kuebler told AFP. "That's why we're focusing on getting ahead in climate .

"We are united in the same goal," Kuebler said. It was up to the court to decide whether the legal action was justified.

'Frightening'

For Schwienhorst, who has run the in Vetschau, eastern Germany, for 30 years, the impact of a warming Earth is apparent.

Compared to the 1990s, the period of vegetation growth in a year has lengthened, while maximum temperatures have also pushed above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).

Annual carbon emissions in gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent
Annual carbon emissions in gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent
"The change in the last decades is already impressive. But what happened this summer is simply frightening," he said, referring to a record drought unseen in Germany since 1911.

The dry spell has stretched from late spring, even halting water traffic across the country, including on the Rhine, one of Europe's busiest commercial arteries.

"We are still now in the phase when rain isn't expected. I'm speechless," said Schwienhorst. That those who dismiss such weather phenomena as one-offs are "impertinent", he added.

The also has a direct impact on his livelihood.

A summer with temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius put the cows under great stress, and the drought meant his poorest harvest in the last three decades.

Schwienhorst pointed to the barn, which was far from full. This year's cereal crop—for human consumption—was 35 percent below the previous year.

His losses in livestock feed crop were even more serious: up to 50 percent, forcing him to buy 400 bales of hay.

Crucially, the farm has been forced to use up a rolling four-month reserve of feed for the cows by the summer.

"There's still hope that this weather will turn, that after this dry phase a wet phase will come. But looking at the trend, change is happening. That is indisputable."


Explore further

Germany will fail 2020 climate goals, now eyes 2030 target

© 2018 AFP

Citation: German farmers sue government over missed climate targets (2018, December 8) retrieved 21 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-12-german-farmers-sue-climate.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
78 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Dec 08, 2018
Together with two other farmers and Greenpeace, Schwienhorst has launched a challenge against the German government for having "given up" trying to achieve cuts in greenhouse gas emissions set out under its own climate target, as well as under European law.


And that's how you know it's a troll lawsuit:

Greenpeace is also protesting against any effective or plausible means the German government has to reduce GHG emissions. They're campaigning against nuclear power and shale gas extraction, which are the only serious competitors to coal power in Germany as the increasing amounts of renewable power is sold across the borders because it doesn't fit the grid. With the end of unaffordable FiT subsidies, investments in renewables has all but halted as well.

In other words, damn if you do, devil if you don't. The purpose of the lawsuit is mostly to weaken the government by bogging them down with bureaucracy and making them look incompetent by demanding the impossible.

Dec 08, 2018
The lowest prices to supply utility power are from wind plus electrical storage. You and your nukes are last century.

Dec 10, 2018
The lowest prices to supply utility power are from wind plus electrical storage. You and your nukes are last century.


Battery storage costs:
https://www.green...y-fading
In Germany, for example, Sonnen estimates that the true cost of a Powerwall could be in the region of €8,500 to €9,000 (US$9,600 to $10,150), including the battery system itself plus a StorEdge inverter interface, gateway, reseller margin, installation fee and sales tax.

Tesla says the cost is between €5,000 to €6,000.

a detailed analysis of Powerwall pricing by SolarQuotes, based on an end-user price of AUD$8,000 (US$6,175), shows the product costing roughly double the original estimates.

manufacturer's warranty reveals that Tesla guarantees a lot less storage than originally advertised

SolarQuotes estimated that each kilowatt-hour delivered from a Powerwall would end up costing an average of AUD$0.50 (US$0.39)

Dec 10, 2018
That however is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that battery storage cost have come down from a dollar a kWh to just 40 cents sooner than expected. Another decade, and it might be just 20 cents extra on top of the power price.

Or not:

https://www.green...l-prices
Tesla Hikes Powerwall Prices to Better Reflect 'Value'



Dec 10, 2018
The lowest prices to supply utility power are from wind plus electrical storage.


https://environme...-in-2017

Electricity prices in California rose three times more in 2017 than they did in the rest of the United States

Electricity prices in the rest of the United States outside California rose two percent, the same as the rate of inflation.

Between 2011 and 2017, California's electricity prices rose five times faster than they did nationally. Today, Californians pay 60 percent more, on average, than the rest of the nation, for residential, commercial and industrial electricity.

The rising cost of electricity in places with increasing penetration of intermittent renewables was predicted by German economist Lion Hirth. He found that the economic value of wind and solar must decline significantly as they become a larger part of the electricity supply.

Dec 10, 2018
As wind and solar capacity climbs, the returns of usable power diminish because of increasing curtailment during surges that the grid cannot absorb. More and more intermittent capacity has to be pushed onto the grid to get less and less additional renewable electricity. The dynamic of soaring overcapacity and falling prices is the inevitable result of the fundamental inability of intermittent wind and solar generators to efficiently match supply to demand.


This is an issue not fixed by batteries, which currently cost 5-10x per kWh consumed than the baseline power prices on the grid. It's just cost on cost.

Renewable energy is "cheap" - sometimes they even pay you to take it - exactly because it's being pushed on the grid for no use and only to collect subsidies. It costs more than its worth to store into batteries, so the state has to subsidize the batteries as well.

Dec 10, 2018
Eikka, are you Russian?

Dec 10, 2018
There may be anthropogenic nitrogen imbalance as well. Seven billion people would produce about 30 trillion kg nitrogen equivalent through feces (100 g /day/person) in an average life of 80 years. Humans have impacted the earth enormously.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more