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17 July 2020
Cycle lane

National government vital to local authority climate change action

Lizzi Sieck, scientific officer at the German Environment Agency believes Munich is a great example of local government in Germany being proactive on climate change. Munich had committed to the same target as the federal government – reducing carbon emissions by 95% by 2050 – but recently went even further: the goal for climate neutrality is now 2035. Although Lizzi works for a national body she strongly argues that, for action on climate change to be truly successful, all levels of government will need to play a role.

Munich’s city’s government approach to climate protection is that it is everyones responsibility. It is an effort to ensure the entire local government is focused on the climate emergency. But the action of Germany’s second largest city is to some extent voluntary. While at the national level there are clear emission reduction targets, there is no nationally-mandated legal responsibility for governments in the country’s 16 federal states, or indeed its 12,000 municipalities, to combat climate change.


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On the legal consequences of not meeting climate change targets - Irene Schmid, Partner, DWF

Many German cities and municipalities declared a climate emergency in resolutions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such declarations themselves have no legal consequences and the cities and municipalities are not invoking a concerted package of demands.

However, most local authorities are committed to the goal of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of capping climate change at 1.5 degrees Celsius, and stipulate that urban measures are to be assessed for their impact on the climate.


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