The Recktenwald family lives on an island in the North Sea coast of Germany. The family has lived on that island for 4 generations and they built up a hotel and restaurant business from scratch. Their restaurant business is situated on top of a dune and the hotel sits just behind the dune. Now, the family’s property and business are under acute risk from the continuously rising sea level, storm surges and the resulting erosion of the beach, because there is no dyke.

They are also concerned about their access to drinking water. On their island, the drinking water originates from an underground lens in the Eastern part of the island. In that area, the wells are at risk of being flooded by high tides and storm waves, which means that the underground freshwater will be salinised. If this happens, the water can no longer be used. As the plaintiff Michael Recktenwald says: “This will mean that human life on the island will become impossible, and the hotel and restaurant, worthless.”

Scientific studies already show that a quick reduction in GHG emissions is critical, especially with regard to sea level rise. When it comes to reducing emissions to protect their island, every minute counts. As the recent research of Mengel et Al. (2018) made clear, a five year delay in capping global emissions will mean a further 20 cm in sea level rise.

The Recktenwald family is initiating this case in order to fight for a safe future and for the well-being of all of us. Maike Recktenwald explains what the “People’s Climate Case” means to them: “This legal case is not only about our family and the current situation, but about the future of all of us. What is happening here on our island and in Northern Germany is happening everywhere around the world. We are particularly aware of climate change because we are living in and with nature.”

Please contact German Watch to reach out to the family.