A German court on Friday is set to begin hearing a case brought against Volkswagen by a farmer who claims the automaker is partly responsible for the impact that global warming is having on his family business.
"Farmers are already being hit harder and faster by climate change than expected," the plaintiff, Ulf Allhoff-Cramer, told reporters this week ahead of the hearing before a regional court in the western town of Detmold.
Environmental group Greenpeace, which has backed several legal cases in Germany aimed at holding companies and government accountable for climate change, is supporting Allhoff-Cramer in his claim.
Such cases have met with mixed success: some have been dismissed, while one made it to Germany's top court, which last year ordered the government to step up its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In the latest case, Allhoff-Cramer is calling for VW — the world's second-biggest car manufacturer based on sales — to end production of combustion engine vehicles by 2030.
German automakers rejected a similar demand from environmental groups last year.
Volkswagen said in a statement that it aims to reduce its emissions "as quickly as the business allows" but has set itself a 2050 deadline to cut carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero.
"Volkswagen stands for climate protection and rapid decarbonization of the transport sector, but cannot meet this challenge alone," the company said, adding that the transformation also depends on government regulation, technological development and buyer behavior.
The company said lawmakers should decide on climate change measures.
"Disputes in civil courts through lawsuits against individual companies singled out for this purpose, on the other hand, are not the place or the means to do justice to this responsible task," VW said. "We will defend this position and ask for the lawsuit to be dismissed."
In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency caught Volkswagen using software that let diesel cars pass emissions tests and then turned off pollution controls during normal driving.
The company apologized and paid tens of billions of dollars in fines, recall costs and compensation to car owners.
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