Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Climate Guardians: Navigating the Future in the 2021 German Climate Verdict and Constitutional Landscape

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Abstract:  In the realm of intergenerational justice, green constitutionalism underscores the necessity for present generations to make choices that do not jeopardize the capacity of future generations to fulfill their needs independently. The climate verdict defending the rights of future generations by the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) of March 2021 was a game changer in that regard. For the first time in Germany’s climate litigation, the fundamental rights of future generations were subject to constitutional claim and enforceable. They were no longer just a normative claim. Constitutional courts can be seen as defenders of the fundamental rights of future generations where constitutions include such normative perspectives. While the Court upheld the infringement of the fundamental rights of the adolescent plaintiffs in the future, the representation of not-yet-born generations remains unclear. This article examines how the 2021 German climate verdict and constitutional provisions address the representation and protection of the interests of future generations represented by the plaintiffs concerning climate change on the one hand and discusses the potential of protecting the fundamental rights of not-yet-born future generations. The article considers the implications for intergenerational justice and explores how these legal frameworks provided by the Constitution may contribute to the formulation of sustainable policies aimed at ensuring the long-term well-being of future generations. There is an urgent need to develop an institutional regime where the needs and rights of future generations are being considered and included in decision-making processes.

Keywords:  climate litigation; Federal Climate Protection Act; German Federal Constitutional Court; Germany; green constitutionalism; intergenerational justice; sustainable development



© Manuela G. Hartwig. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.