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German farmer sues Volkswagen over climate change

May 20, 2022

An organic farmer claims emissions from Volkswagen contributed to climate change and are responsible for damaging his farm. A German court has already expressed doubts as to the case's viability.

A farmer with crossed arms next to a tractor
This farmer says Volkswagen is responsible for accelerating climate change and damaging his farmImage: Lino Mirgeler/dpa/picture alliance

Organic farmer takes Volkswagen to court

A court in the western German city of Detmold began hearing a case on Friday against the Volkswagen groupbrought by an organic farmer who said pollution caused by the carmaker is infringing on his rights.

The farmer, who is backed by environmental campaign group Greenpeace, has said that Volkswagen's emissions are contributing to climate change therefore interfering with his fundamental rights to property, health and freedom.

He claims extremes caused by climate change such as drier soil and heavier rain is harming his field, cattle and forests.

"Farmers are already being hit harder and faster by climate change than expected,'' he told reporters this week, while alleging that VW as the world's second-biggest automaker has contributed to the damage.

"A corporation with such gigantic CO2 emissions as VW is partly responsible for the damage caused by the climate crisis," Roda Verheyen, the farmer's lawyer, was cited as saying by Greenpeace ahead of the proceedings.

What does the farmer want?

Both the farmer and Greenpeace accuse VW of knowing about the dangers of climate change for decades, citing research show to VW's board in 1983 showing the consequences of increased CO2 emissions.

They want VW to reduce its production of combustion engine vehicles by 25% in the next seven years, and completely phase out combustion engines by 2030. They are also calling for VW to reduce its CO2 emissions by 65% compared to 2018.

What does the court say?

A spokesman for the court told reporters that the case's success was doubtful.

After the first hearing, the farmer and his lawyers were instructed to provide further evidence to back up their arguments and allow time for Volkswagen to respond.

The presiding judge also said it was unclear whether the plaintiff already suffered climate-related damages or is only expecting them. The next hearing was set for September 9.

The carmaker has already said the farmer's allegations are unfounded. He is trying to claim "individual liability for general consequences of climate change" and that "in our view cannot succeed," VW said.

VW is currently shifting to electric vehicle production, investing over €35 billion ($36.9 billion) and aiming to be the world's largest electric carmaker by 2035.

Electric microbus: Volkswagen ID Buzz

wmr/rt (AP, AFP)