On March 26, 2023, German voters in the city-state of Berlin rejected an amendment to the Berlin Climate Protection and Energy Transition Act (Berliner Klimaschutz- und Energiewendegesetz, EWG Bln) that would have codified the goal for Berlin to become climate neutral by 2030 as a legally binding obligation. Even though 50.9% (442,028) of the participants voted in favor of the amendment, that majority did not constitute a quorum of 25% of all eligible voters (607,519) as required by law. (Abstimmungsgesetz § 36, para. 1.) Voter turnout was 35.7%.
The amendment would have transformed the climate change “goals” into climate change “commitments.” Furthermore, the target date to become climate neutral would have been changed from 2045 to 2030. The amendment would have extended the obligation to reduce emissions to all greenhouse gases and not just carbon dioxide.
Federal Climate Policy
Germany ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the global average temperature increase above preindustrial levels to well below 2 degrees Celsius, on October 5, 2016. On August 31, 2021, an amendment to the German Federal Climate Change Act (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz, KSG) entered into force. The amendment codified the goal for the country to become climate neutral by 2045 as a legally binding obligation to implement the requirements from a 2021 case of the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG). The goal after 2050 is to achieve negative emissions. (KSG § 3, para. 2.) The KSG allows the German states to enact their own legislation on climate change as long as it is compatible with the federal goals. (KSG § 14, para. 1.)
In addition, the European Climate Law, a European Union (EU) regulation, is directly applicable in Germany and all other EU member states. (Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) art. 288, para. 2.) The European Climate Law codifies the binding objective of climate neutrality by 2050 and requires member states to take the necessary measures to achieve this goal, but allows more ambitious climate neutrality goals.
Jenny Gesley, Law Library of Congress
April 28, 2023
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