Braunschweig, Germany – Greenpeace Germany today filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen (VW), the world’s second largest car manufacturer, for failing to decarbonise the company in line with the 1.5°C goal agreed in Paris. At the end of October, VW rejected Greenpeace’s legal demand to reduce its CO2 emissions faster and to phase out internal combustion vehicles by 2030 at the latest.

Martin Kaiser, Executive Director of Greenpeace Germany, said: “Negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow indicate that the 1.5-degree target is at stake and can only be met with a bold change of course in politics and business. But while people suffer from floods and droughts triggered by the climate crisis, CO2 emissions from transport continue to rise. Car companies like Volkswagen need to take responsibility and act much faster to phase out the highly-polluting internal combustion engine, and decarbonise their activities with no further delay.”

Bringing the case before the regional Court of Braunschweig, the plaintiffs, including Fridays for Future activist Clara Mayer, are asserting civil liability claims for the protection of their personal liberties, health and property rights, based on the May 2021 Dutch Court case against Shell, which ruled that large corporations have their own climate responsibility and ordered Shell and all its subsidiaries to do more to protect the climate. Greenpeace Germany is also supporting another lawsuit against VW filed by an organic farmer on the same grounds.

By holding Volkswagen accountable for the consequences of its climate-damaging business model, Greenpeace Germany is enforcing the landmark Karlsruhe constitutional court ruling of April 2021, when the judges ruled that future generations have a fundamental right to climate protection. Large companies are equally bound by this requirement. 

In early December, the VW’s supervisory board will set the course for investments over the next five years. Despite legal requirements for climate action, the company’s development plan reportedly includes the production of a new generation of climate-damaging internal combustion engines, which the car-maker seemingly intends to sell until 2040 at least.[1]

The plaintiffs claim that to date Volkswagen has failed to do its part to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Based on the International Energy Agency (IEA) 1,5 degrees scenario, to meet the Paris Agreement’s commitments and contribute to climate protection, the company should reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030 (compared to 2018), internal combustion engines should only account for a quarter of all VW cars sold, and should be completely phased out by 2030 at the latest.[2]

If the lawsuit is successful, according to Greenpeace Germany it will lead to emissions reductions of over two gigatons of CO2 compared to Volkswagen’s current plans, which corresponds to more than twice the annual global aviation emissions.[3]

Notes to editors:

Here is an English translation of the summary of the lawsuit filed against Volkswagen on November 9th, 2021 (6 pages). The full lawsuit in German (120 pages) can be found here 



[3] Aviation emissions were 0,9Gt in 2019, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation.


Benjamin Stephan, transport expert Greenpeace Germany, +49151-57208151, [email protected]

Simone Miller, Press Officer Greenpeace Germany, +49171-8706647, [email protected]