Volkswagen sued: Climate protection actively delayed?


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Status: 05/18/2022 06:20 AM

Volkswagen is said to have effectively delayed climate protection measures, according to internal documents and a Greenpeace report SWR Present. Volkswagen is on trial on Friday for its role in climate protection.

Written by Marilena Gorse, Moratala and Nick Shader, SWR

For the first time in Germany, a lawsuit has been filed on the issue of climate change against a company. On Friday, VW is in Detmold County Courthouse. The plaintiffs are organic farmers and Greenpeace. The accusation: With carbon dioxide emissions rising, the group is partly responsible for the climate crisis. In addition, Volkswagen has been informed of the tragic consequences of the climate crisis since the early 1980s at the latest.

This stems from and for the Greenpeace report that EPA evaluated internal company documents for SWR Available in advance. Accordingly, at a board meeting at the end of 1983, the head of the research department urgently warned of the consequences of increased carbon dioxide emissions in traffic and the danger of climate change. An internal letter to the board reads: “In the annex (to the VW board of directors) you will find excerpts from the most recent US publications that raise concerns of far-reaching consequences in relation to climate change.” Studies have also shown “concrete actions to avoid further burning of fossil fuels”.

Volkswagen did not want to have a public debate on environmental protection

However, according to the documents that dem SWR These warnings were made in part by Greenpeace, and these warnings were not only ignored in the VW Group, but were partly blocked – with the strategic goal, according to the Greenpeace report, of “protecting its business model.” But also prove it SWRThe research because senior management at the time wanted to avoid public debate about “speed limits and CO2 emissions”.

At a supervisory board meeting in 1984, according to the minutes, a spokesperson for the Executive Board warned: “With the introduction of the speed limit in Germany, German vehicles could suffer a loss of image.” The board of directors responsible for sales at the time also spoke out clearly against a public discussion of carbon dioxide and halted publication of an internal paper on the risks of the climate crisis. “The biggest emitter of carbon dioxide is to bring this substance into the discussion,” the board’s minutes say. “Car control demands such as driving bans and speed limits could be environmentalists’ demands.”

In federal ministries, the role of the Volkswagen Group was increasingly viewed critically. In a letter from the Secretary of State in the same year, the Federal Ministry of the Interior expressed grave concern about the “restrictive position” of the Volkswagen Group towards the environmental goals of the federal government.

Volkswagen pushed through weaker climate targets

Although the senior management of the Volkswagen Group has been aware of the relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change according to the minutes of the Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board, that is, since at least 1983, they have sometimes acted in the opposite direction towards politicians. This also comes from documents evaluated by Greenpeace and SWR Outside.

For example, the Volkswagen Group lobbied through the Automobile Industry Association (VDA) against the introduction of stricter CO2 specification in the automobile industry. Among other things, the so-called “VDA traffic concept” was discussed at the meeting of the VW board of directors in May 1990, which was to be presented to then-Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl shortly thereafter. One board member explained: “Instead of a planned announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (VDA) that CO2 emissions from traffic will be halved by 2005, a 25% reduction, up to a maximum of 33%, should be included in the paper From VW-Run on the other hand, a proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25% should be included in this voting process.”

Volkswagen’s proposal implemented

As per the request of Volkswagen’s board of directors, a reduction in CO2 emissions of just 25% was finally agreed with the Federal Chancellor as a voluntary commitment. A note from the Federal Economy Minister at the time said: “AI (auto industry editor’s note) is keeping its promise to the Federal Chancellor. […] Reducing CO2 emissions from road transport by at least 2005.”

The Automotive Industry Association (VDA) announced on request SWRIt cannot comment on external and internal events that occurred more than 20 or 30 years ago in relation to individual member companies. In general, the VDA declared: “The German auto industry fully supports the Paris climate goals and is working with all its might to pave the way for climate-neutral mobility as soon as possible.”

Greenpeace: Volkswagen must take responsibility

Greenpeace demands concrete action from Volkswagen: “The VW Board of Directors has been informed for nearly 40 years about the processes and causes of climate change. Today, through its e-vehicle test drive, the group is trying to hide the fact that more than 90 percent of its cars are still climate-damaging combustion engines. With the passenger car division alone, the group accounts for one percent of global carbon dioxide emissions,” Explains plaintiff and Greenpeace managing director Martin Kaiser. Volkswagen must finally take on this responsibility to stop producing climate-damaging combustion engines by 2030 at the latest. You can sue it in court.

When asked by SWR, the Volkswagen Group did not want to comment on the allegations specifically because they relate to ongoing procedures and stated in writing: “Volkswagen has dealt with fuel consumption questions for decades. We have defined decarbonization as a core component of our strategy and are constantly relying on battery-powered vehicles in our The light of continuous global warming. Volkswagen toughened its climate targets last year.

Judges must now adjudicate the allegations. A verdict is not expected on Friday. According to a Detmold County Court spokesperson, this is somewhat unlikely. In principle, a court ruling after this date can be expected only within three weeks. However, it is conceivable that the unsuccessful party will appeal, and the complaint will then be submitted to the Hamm Regional High Court.

According to Greenpeace report, Volkswagen sued over delayed climate action

Nick Shader, SWR, 18.5.2022 6:40 a.m.

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