in ,

Greenpeace initiates a lawsuit against Volkswagen for fueling the climate crisis

VW business model violates future freedom and property rights

Berlin, Germany - Greenpeace Germany announced today that it is suing Volkswagen, the world's second largest automaker, for failing to decarbonise the company in line with the 1,5 ° C target agreed in Paris. Based on the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), the independent environmental organization has called on the company to stop manufacturing climate-damaging vehicles with internal combustion engines and reduce its carbon footprint by 2%. no later than 65.

By holding Volkswagen accountable for the consequences of its climate-damaging business model, Greenpeace Germany is enforcing the landmark Karlsruhe constitutional court ruling of April 2021, in which the judges ruled that future generations have a fundamental right to climate protection. Large companies are also bound by this requirement.

Martin Kaiser, Managing Director of Greenpeace Germany, said: “While people are suffering from the floods and droughts caused by the climate crisis, the auto industry seems to remain untouched, despite its huge contribution to global warming. The judgment of the Constitutional Court represents a mandate to enforce the legal protection of our common livelihoods quickly and effectively. We need all hands on deck to protect our future together. "

In the run-up to the filing of the lawsuit, Greenpeace Germany alleged to Volkswagen that the company's current and planned measures violate the Paris climate targets, fuel the climate crisis and thus violate applicable law. Regardless of the need to run down the internal combustion engine quickly in order to be able to stay below 1,5 ° C, Volkswagen continues to sell millions of climate-damaging diesel and gasoline cars, This causes a carbon footprint that corresponds to almost all of Australia's annual emissions and, according to a study by Greenpeace Germany, contributes to the increase in extreme weather events.

Plaintiffs, including Fridays for Future activist Clara Mayer, are bringing civil liability claims to protect their personal freedoms, health and property rights, based on the May 2021 Dutch court case against Shell that ruled that large companies were have their own climate responsibility and called on Shell and all of its subsidiaries to do more to protect the climate.


Greenpeace Germany is represented by Dr. Roda Verheyen. The Hamburg lawyer was already legal counsel for the nine plaintiffs in the climate litigation against the federal government, which ended with the successful judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court in April 2021 and since then has also led the lawsuit of a Peruvian farmer against RWE in 2015.

Greenpeace Germany will present itself today, September 3, 2021, together with Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) at the Federal Press Conference in Berlin. In addition, the DUH today initiated proceedings against the other two major German automobile manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and BMW, who are calling for a climate strategy that corresponds to the goals of the Paris Agreement. In addition, DUH announced legal action against the oil and natural gas company Wintershall Dea.

The suit comes on the market just a few days before the start of the International Motor Show (IAA), one of the world's largest auto shows, which opens in Munich on September 7th. As part of a large NGO alliance, Greenpeace Germany is organizing a large protest march and a bike tour against the automotive and combustion engine-centric industry.

Roda Verheyen, lawyer for the plaintiffs: “Anyone who delays climate protection harms others and is thus acting illegally. This is clear from the judgment of the Constitutional Court, and this also and especially applies to the German auto industry with its gigantic global CO. Emissions2 Footprint. Obviously this is not a game. Civil law can and must help us prevent the worst effects of climate change by ordering corporations to stop emissions - otherwise they will endanger our lives and deprive our children and grandchildren of the right to a secure future. "

Clara Mayer, Plaintiff against Volkswagen and climate protection activist, said: “Climate protection is a fundamental right. It is unacceptable for a company to prevent us so much from achieving our climate goals. At the moment Volkswagen is making huge profits from the production of climate-damaging cars, which we have to pay dearly in the form of climate impacts. The fundamental rights of future generations are at risk as we are already seeing the effects of the climate crisis. The begging and pleading is over, it is time to hold Volkswagen legally accountable. "


You can find the claim letter from Greenpeace in German at

More information about the claim can be found at

Photos: Greenpeace

Written by Option

Option is an idealistic, completely independent and global “social media platform” on sustainability and civil society. Together we show positive alternatives in all areas and support meaningful innovations and future-oriented ideas - constructively critical, optimistic, at the bottom of reality. The option community is dedicated exclusively to relevant news and documents the essential progress of our society.


Leave a message
  1. What kind of an impossible contribution is that? You don't sue a pencil factory just because pencils were used to commit murders. Everyone has it under control which car they buy. But - what kind of climate-friendly vehicles are currently available? How could these be developed if you sued the developers and producers and robbed them of their existence?

  2. I have trouble understanding some of the demands. Why does everyone have to switch to e-cars when the electricity for this is mainly generated with fossil fuels? Everything has to be powered by green electricity, but please no hydropower plants, no wind turbines and no photovoltaic farms! How is that supposed to work?
    Asks someone who has insulated his house, who does not use any fossil fuels to heat or generate hot water (geothermal heat pump), who mainly generates electricity using photovoltaics and who drives a hybrid and not an electric car (see electricity generation).

  3. @Charly: We just can't go on like we did before. For several decades it has been clear what will come next. The global economy now had enough time. The automotive industry was and is particularly rigid. And the legal route is currently the most promising to achieve change.

  4. @Franz Jurek: Unfortunately we are not there yet. But from my point of view there is no way around 100% fossil-free. Most of them have now also understood that. But the “great transformation” takes time. And you will get used to more wind turbines and PVs etc.

Leave a Comment