BERLIN, Sept 13 (Reuters) – A lawsuit accusing Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE) of infringing on people’s freedoms by exacerbating climate change was dropped by the Stuttgart district court on Tuesday but the German climate NGO behind the case said it planned to appeal.
The case brought by NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) marked the first by individual citizens in Germany against a private company for exacerbating climate change.
The DUH said it plans to appeal the ruling in the higher regional court of Stuttgart.
“Even if this ruling did not turn out in our favour, we hope for a quick resolution in the higher court, for the climate crisis does not leave us much time,” said DUH lawyer Remo Klinger.
The case had demanded that Mercedes-Benz adhere to a tighter carbon emissions budget and commit to ending production of combustion engine cars by November 2030.
It was based on a 2021 ruling in Germany’s top court which found the country’s climate law was not doing enough to protect future generations.
The plaintiffs, three directors of the DUH, argued that their rights as individuals to be protected from the consequences of climate change were being infringed upon by Mercedes-Benz’ impact on the planet.
The court in a statement said it had ruled that there was not yet tangible enough proof of how Mercedes-Benz’ production of combustion engine cars was impacting the rights of the plaintiffs, adding this could change in future.
The court also said the case went beyond their call of duty, arguing that decisions on specific ways to protect the environment, a principle anchored in German law, would be carried out, were in the hands of the legislature and not the courts.
Mercedes-Benz said it welcomed the ruling.
“Which efforts should be shouldered by which actors to achieve Germany’s climate goals is a political question that cannot be answered case-by-case in civil courts,” the company said in a statement.
DUH has filed a similar lawsuit against BMW (BMWG.DE), with a court date scheduled for November.
A case supported by Greenpeace against Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) by farmer Ulf Allhoff-Cramer, who says Volkswagen’s carbon footprint is damaging his land, will be heard in court in May next year.
In its defence, Volkswagen has argued that 99% of emissions from its vehicles are caused by third parties – in particular by the drivers of the vehicles and suppliers, according to court documents seen by Reuters.
It also argued that demanding Volkswagen produce only battery-electric vehicles was too restrictive, pointing to alternatives such as carbon capture or e-fuel powered vehicles.