Intergenerational Justice

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The concept of Intergenerational Justice is characterized by the question of what kind of world those living today will leave to their children and grandchildren. According to this concept, it is essential that different generations have an equal level of opportunity and quality of life, and that material resources are distributed equitably across them. It describes the responsibility of today’s generations to pass on a healthy and intact planet to future generations. This responsibility consists not only of social, political, and economic aspects, but also ecological issues such as biodiversity, natural resources, nuclear waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change. Intergenerational Justice is especially relevant in the context of the climate crisis, as today’s decisions have far-reaching consequences for next generations. 

The landmark ruling of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court on the so-called Climate Resolution on March 24, 2021, was made in this sense. The court found the then nationally applicable Climate Protection Act to be partially unconstitutional because, among other things, it significantly impaired the freedoms of young people and future generations. It ruled that this legislation had pushed the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions according to the Paris Agreement too far into the future, which would have drastic negative consequences for the freedoms of young generations and those to come. The Federal Constitutional Court decreed that increased efforts should be made to reduce global warming corresponding to the Paris Agreement and to stop the CO2 budget from being used up for coming generations. The result was a constitutional order for current politics to respect the rights of future generations.