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Together with campaigner Clara Mayer, the environmental activists took VW to court on Tuesday, accusing the company of failing to do its part to combat climate change. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the Wolfsburg-based car company are making a significant contribution to the climate crisis and its consequences.
VW’s business model is not compatible with the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, they argue.
To protect their freedom and property rights, Greenpeace is calling on VW to, among other things, end the global sale of climate-damaging combustion engines by 2030 at the latest.
If their lawsuit is successful, two gigatons less CO2 would be emitted by 2040, Greenpeace said.
The claimants had given Volkswagen eight weeks to consider their demands, which included ending production of internal combustion engine cars by 2030 and reducing carbon emissions by at least 65 percent from 2018 levels by then, before filing the suit.
Volkswagen rejected the demands on October 28.
A company spokesman said: “Volkswagen stands for climate protection and decarbonising the transport sector, but it cannot tackle this challenge alone.
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“The task of designing appropriate measures belongs to Parliament.
“Civil court disputes through lawsuits against singled-out companies are not the place or way to do justice to this task of great responsibility.”
A similar lawsuit was filed in late September by the heads of German environmental organisation Deutsche Umwelthilfe against BMW and Daimler, when both companies also rejected demands to end production of fossil fuel-based cars by 2030 and limit CO2 emissions before then.
The lawsuits draw on two prior climate-related cases: a German ruling in May 2020 that the country was failing to protect future generations from the consequences of climate change, and a Dutch ruling the same month ordering oil firm Shell to reduce its emissions, the first time a private company was held responsible for its impact on the climate.
Speaking on Friday on the sidelines of COP26, Greenpeace director Martin Kaiser: “A huge CO2 emitter like Volkswagen has to bow to international climate targets and the ruling from Karlsruhe.
“Only with a quick goodbye to the combustion engine can VW make its contribution to limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.”
In a previous statement in September, Mr Kaiser said: “While people suffer from floods and droughts triggered by the climate crisis, the car industry, despite its enormous contribution to global warming, seems unaffected.
“The ruling of the Constitutional Court represents a mandate to quickly and effectively enforce the legal protection of our common livelihoods.
“We need all hands on deck to protect our common future.”
Ms Mayer added: “Climate protection is a constitutional right. It is not acceptable that a company should so significantly prevent us from reaching our climate targets.
“At the moment, Volkswagen is making huge profits by producing climate-damaging cars, which we will have to pay dearly for in the form of climate consequences.”
She continued: “The basic rights of future generations are in danger, as we are already seeing the effects of the climate crisis.
“The begging and pleading has come to an end, it is time to hold Volkswagen legally responsible.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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