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Germany was ordered to set up a climate action plan to ensure the country cuts carbon emissions in the traffic and construction sectors and can’t dodge the rules by put in place targets for the economy as a whole.

The Berlin-Brandenburg Administrative Appeals Court on Thursday ruled in favor of environmental groups DUH and BUND in three cases, saying the country is violating climate protection laws. After emission limits in the traffic and construction sector were breached in 2021 and 2022, the climate-protection law now requires fast-track programs to be issued, the three judges ruled. 

The government can appeal the decision. The German Economy Ministry said it will analyze the ruling and then decide what steps to take. 

Olaf Scholz’s government is in the process of revising the country’s climate laws to allow an approach that no longer looks at individual sectors and annual emission limits but take a broader view covering the economy as a whole, adding up allowances of all years until 2023.

“Once that legislation is passed, it will increase the government’s chances on appeal,” said Ivana Mikešić, a regulatory lawyer in Frankfurt.

Earlier this month judges at Germany’s top court struck a blow to Scholz’s climate plans when it ruled that €60 billion ($65 billion) in off-budget funding for clean energy and industrial projects violated constitutional law. 

The judges in Thursday’s ruling rejected that broad approach, which is part of the government’s 2023 climate plan. That’s not enough to count as fast action as required under the current version of the law, the court said.

“A fast-track program must instead have measures that work on a short-term basis, which ensure the emission limits are being kept in the respective years and sectors,” according to the tribunal.  

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“This ruling is a judicial double whammy for climate protection and a resounding slap in the face for the German government for its disastrous climate policy,” said Jürgen Resch, a managing director of DUH.

(Updates with government statement in third paragraph.)

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