Germany’s supreme constitutional court has ruled that the government’s climate protection measures are insufficient to protect future generations, after a complaint brought by environmentalist groups.

In a groundbreaking ruling, the judges of the Karlsruhe court, Germany’s highest, said the government now had until the end of next year to improve its Climate Protection Act, passed in 2019, and to ensure it met 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals more immediately. One of the complainants, Luisa Neubauer, (pictured above) an activist from Fridays for Future, welcomed the ruling, saying: “This is huge. Climate protection is not nice to have; climate protection is our basic right and that’s official now. This is a huge win for the climate movement, it changes a lot.”

The case was brought by young environmental activists, backed by Fridays for Future along with Greenpeace, Germany’s Friends of the Earth (BUND) and other NGOs. Among them was Sophie Backsen, 22, an agricultural science student from the North Frisian island of Pellworm, on Germany’s North Sea coast, together with her younger brothers, Hannes, Paul and Jakob. Her parents, who run an organic farm on the island that Backsen hopes one day to manage, had taken a similar case to Berlin’s administrative court two years ago, together with Greenpeace, but it had ruled against them.

The Backsens were joined by two other families from the East Frisian island of Langeoog and another complainant from Brandenburg, all of whom are involved in either farming, sustainable tourism or both. In their complaint, they told the court they had all experienced first-hand the effects of the climate crisis, including flooding and heatwaves. The group also secured the support of Neubauer, Germany’s Fridays for Future’s main representative who is seen as the country’s leading climate activist.

The court said it was unconstitutional for emission reduction targets to have been postponed for so many years and stated that the law was not detailed enough about how reductions would happen.