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Farmer sues VW over climate change; German court has doubts

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BERLIN – A German court on Friday cast doubt on a German farmer’s claim that carmaker Volkswagen is partly responsible for the impact of global warming on his family business.

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The plaintiff, Ulf Allhoff-Cramer, claims drier soil and heavier rains due to climate change are destroying his commercial fields, livestock and forests.

“Farmers are already being hit harder and faster by climate change than expected,” he told reporters this week, alleging that VW, the world’s second-largest automaker, had contributed to the damage.

But during the first hearing, a regional court in the western city of Detmold asked the plaintiff and his lawyer to provide further details to support their legal argument, German news agency dpa reported.

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The presiding judge also asked for clarity on whether the plaintiffs had suffered climate-related damage or were simply expecting it. It set the next court hearing for September 9.

The case is supported by environmental group Greenpeace, which has supported similar legal efforts in Germany aimed at holding companies and governments accountable for climate change.

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Such cases have met with mixed success. Several 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 its complaint, Allhoff-Cramer called for VW to end production of combustion engine vehicles by 2030. The German automaker rejected a similar request from environmental groups last year.

Volkswagen said in a statement that it aims to reduce its emissions “as fast as business allows” but has set a deadline of 2050 to cut carbon dioxide emissions to zero.

“Volkswagen stands for climate protection and rapid decarbonization of the transport sector, but it cannot meet these challenges alone,” the company said, adding that transformation also hinges on government regulations, technological developments and buyer behavior.

The company said lawmakers should decide on climate change measures.

“Disputes in civil courts through lawsuits against individual companies aimed at this purpose, on the other hand, are neither the place nor the means to do justice to this responsible task,” VW said. “We will defend this position and request that the lawsuit be dropped.”

In 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency caught Volkswagen using software that allowed diesel cars to pass emissions tests and then turn off pollution controls during normal driving. The company apologized and paid tens of billions of dollars in fines, recall fees and compensation to car owners.

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Follow AP’s climate coverage at http://apnews.com/hub/climate

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