Farmers have sued VW for climate change; The German court has doubts

BERLIN – A German court on Friday questioned a German farmer’s claim that automaker Volkswagen was partly responsible for the effects of global warming on his family business.

The plaintiff, Wolf Alhoff-Kramer, claims that dry soil and heavy rains are damaging his fields, livestock and commercial forests due to climate change.

“Farmers are already being hit harder and faster by climate change than expected,” he told reporters this week, accusing VW of being the world’s second-largest automaker.

But during the first hearing, a regional court in the western city of Detmold asked the plaintiff and his lawyers to provide more details in support of their legal arguments, the German news agency DPA reported.

The presiding judge also wants clarification on whether the plaintiffs have already suffered climate-related damage or are merely expecting them. It has set September 9 for the next court hearing

The lawsuit is backed by environmental group Greenpeace, which has backed similar legal efforts in Germany to hold companies and governments accountable for climate change.

Such cases have been met with mixed success. Some have been fired, following a German court that last year ordered the government to step up its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to him, Alhof-Kramer has called on VW to stop production of its combustion engine car by 2030. German carmakers last year rejected similar claims by environmental groups

Volkswagen said in a statement that it aims to reduce emissions “as soon as business allows” but set a 2050 deadline to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero.

“Volkswagen stands for rapid decarbonization of the climate protection and transportation sectors, but cannot address this challenge alone,” the company said in a statement.

The agency said lawmakers should decide on climate change measures.

“Disputes in civil courts through lawsuits against individual companies for this purpose, on the other hand, are not the place or means to do justice to this responsible work,” VW said. “We will defend this position and ask for the case to be dismissed.”

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency caught Volkswagen using software that allows diesel vehicles to pass emissions tests and then turn off pollution control during normal driving. The company has apologized and paid billions of dollars in fines, recall costs and car owners compensation.

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