On Friday, a German court began examining a case against Volkswagen group brought by a farmer who claims that the pollution caused by the auto giant is violating his rights.
The organic farmer from the Rhenish city of Detmold, supported by the Greenpeace campaign group, says Volkswagen’s emissions are contributing significantly to climate change and thereby damaging his business.
He claims this is interfering with his fundamental rights to property, health and liberty.
“A company with such gigantic CO2 emissions as VW is partly responsible for the damage caused by the climate crisis,” said Roda Verheyen, the farmer’s lawyer, from Greenpeace before the proceedings.
If the group does not reduce its emissions much faster than expected, it will harm others and therefore behave “illegally,” he said.
However, a spokesman for the Detmold court on Friday said he had expressed clear doubts about the success of the lawsuit.
The case was updated in September to allow the farmer to present further written evidence and to allow Volkswagen to comment.
The auto group previously dismissed the farmer’s allegations as “unfounded”.
It is trying to claim “individual responsibility for the general consequences of climate change” and that “in our opinion it cannot be successful,” the automaker said.
The farmer and Greenpeace want to force VW to reduce the percentage of cars produced with combustion engines to 25% by 2029 and completely stop production of vehicles with combustion engines by 2030.
They also want VW to reduce its CO2 emissions by 65% compared to 2018.
Plaintiffs accuse VW of having been aware of the dangers of global warming for decades.
They say research showed the council was warned at a meeting in 1983 of the consequences of rising carbon dioxide emissions and the threat of climate change.
The Volkswagen group, whose 12 brands include Audi, Porsche and Skoda, is investing 35 billion euros in the switch to electric vehicles and aims to become the largest electric car manufacturer in the world by 2025.