Author: FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) – A German court on Friday questioned claims by a German farmer that carmaker Volkswagen is partly responsible for the impact of global warming on its family business.
Plaintiff Ulf Allhoff-Cramer claims that dry soil and heavier rains are damaging his fields, cattle and commercial forests due to climate change.
“Farmers have already been hit harder and faster by climate change than expected,” he told reporters this week, claiming that VW, as the world’s second-largest carmaker, had contributed to the damage.
But during the first hearing, the provincial court in the western city of Detmold asked the plaintiff and his lawyers to provide additional details to support their legal arguments, the German news agency dpa reported.
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The presiding judge also asked for clarity as to whether the plaintiff had already suffered climate damage or was just expecting it. The next court hearing was set for Sept. 9.
The case is supported by the Greenpeace environmental group, which has supported similar legal efforts in Germany aimed at keeping businesses and governments responsible for climate change.
Such cases have had mixed success. Some were fired, and one came to the German Supreme Court, which last year ordered the government to step up its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In its complaint, Allhoff-Cramer calls on VW to stop production of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030. German carmakers rejected a similar request from environmental groups last year.
Volkswagen said in a statement that it wants to reduce its emissions “as fast as the business allows”, but has set a deadline of 2050 to reduce carbon emissions to zero.
“Volkswagen is committed to protecting the climate and rapidly decarbonising the transport sector, but it cannot meet this challenge alone,” the company said, adding that the transformation also depends on government regulation, technological development and customer behavior.
The company said lawmakers should decide on climate change measures.
“Disputes in civil courts with lawsuits against individual companies selected for this purpose, on the other hand, are not a place or a means to justify this responsible task,” they say at VW. “We will defend this position and demand that the lawsuit be dismissed.”
In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency caught Volkswagen using software that allows diesel cars to pass emission tests and then turn off pollution control during normal driving. The company apologized and paid tens of billions of dollars in fines, recall costs and damages to car owners.
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