Press Release | 15 December 2016

Regional Court dismisses climate lawsuit against RWE – Claimant likely to appeal


Today, the Regional Court Essen dismissed the civil suit of Peruvian mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya against RWE. The legal process is likely to continue: Attorney  Verheyen announced that her client will “most likely” present an appeal at the Higher Regional Court Hamm.

Essen (15th Dec. 2016). Today, the Regional Court Essen dismissed the “climate lawsuit” of Peruvian mountain guide and farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya against RWE. The civil court justified its decision inter alia by pointing to a lack of “legal causality,” which it argued does not exist despite the fact that there may be a “scientific causality”. The claimant and his lawyer had hoped to proceed to the evidentiary stage with the aim of clarifying the legal liabilities of large contributors to climate change for providing protection from the risks associated with climate impacts. “We nevertheless believe the lawsuit is well-founded and that a legal causality does exist,” affirms attorney at law Dr. Roda Verheyen (Hamburg). “We will now most likely appeal the case to prove RWE’s partial responsibility at the Higher Regional Court Hamm. My client and I will make the final decision after reviewing the written verdict.”

In Peru, Saúl Luciano Lliuya had eagerly awaited the decision. He is disappointed, but committed: “As mountain guides we are used to travelling up long and rocky roads. Obstacles like this shouldn’t discourage us. This is about safety and justice for my family and thousands of other people in Huaraz. I’m still hopeful that a German court will give us the chance to show that RWE has contributed to this dangerous situation.”

This is the first proceeding of this kind in Europe. With this civil suit, which was filed in late 2015, Luciano Lliuya seeks that RWE cover a share of the costs for preventative measures at the glacial lake overlooking the Andean town of Huaraz in accordance with its contribution to climate change. Many of the town’s 120,000 inhabitants, including the family and community of Luciano Lliuya, are threatened by an acute risk of flooding due to the accelerated melting of the glaciers that is caused by climate change. Up to 50,000 people live with this threat. The lawsuit is about 17,000 Euros. RWE rejects the claim.

One contributor among many is not responsible? “That would be an argument for collective irresponsibility”

The energy corporation terms itself the largest single CO2 emitter in Europe. According to a study from 2014, the company is responsible for about half a percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions from human activity since the beginning of Industrialization. “The question here is whether the main contributors to climate change can get out of their responsibility because there are many other contributors,” says Klaus Milke, chairman of the environment and development organization Germanwatch, which is supporting and advising Luciano Lliuya in his efforts. “That would mean that people affected by climate change cannot receive support and have no rights. It would be an argument for collective irresponsibility.”

The International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) traces the ongoing deglaciation in the Andes back to climate change. In Huaraz the danger is particularly imminent: The glacial lake Palcacocha, which lies a few miles above the town, has grown fourfold just since 2003. Due to climate change, the risk that large chunks of ice break off from the glaciers and fall into the lake is rising. Then, a devastating flood wave would crash into the valley below. In order to reduce the threat permanently, large amounts of water would have to be continually siphoned from the lake with a new drainage system and the dams at the lake would have to be reinforced or renewed.

The German foundation Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit is covering the claimant’s legal and court expenses. In the probable case of an appeal, it will call for further donations to this end.

Contact for media:

  • Stefan Küper
    Press Officer Germanwatch
    (contact details s.b., please mobile phone or e-mail today)