Press Release | 26 January 2017

Climate Suit against RWE: Peruvian Mountain Guide Will Appeal

Saúl Luciano Lliuya will file an appeal to the Higher Regional Court Hamm (Germany) against the decision made by the District Court Essen. The Peruvian, who lives in the high Andes, aims to make the german energy corporation RWE bear a share of the costs for protective measures against the impacts of climate change on his home.

Bonn (January 26, 2017). Today the mountain guide and small-scale farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya from Peru filed an appeal against the decision made by the Regional Court Essen (Germany) in his lawsuit against RWE. Together with his attorney Dr. Roda Verheyen (Hamburg), he will continue his efforts before the Higher Regional Court Hamm to compel RWE, as the largest emitter of CO2 in Europe, to contribute to protective measures against the effects of climate change in the Peruvian Andes. These effects threaten major parts of his hometown, Huaraz. The court of first instance had dismissed the “climate suit” in mid-December.

“The reasoning of the Regional Court Essen for dismissing the lawsuit is wrong, in our opinion,” says attorney Verheyen. “It fails to take facts, which we brought forward regarding the causal link between CO2 emissions and the actual glacial meltdown, into account. Despite the fact, that the court acknowledged the possibility of a scientific causation, it assumed that a legal causality is lacking in any such a case. We believe such a legal causality exists. Just because a multitude of polluters are bringing about these effects, the legal responsibility of the individual is not negated. We hope that the Higher Regional Court Hamm shares our interpretation of the law and that it will give us the chance to bring evidence to prove that RWE is partially responsible for the imminent threat to my client’s property.”

Saúl Luciano shows determination. “We have no other option. The glacial lake above my hometown is growing relentlessly, and those who are causing the glacier to melt with their emissions act as if they had nothing to do with our plight. It doesn’t take a legal scholar to see that this is unjust.”

This case will set a precedent. Saúl Luciano Lliuya seeks from RWE a share of the costs for protective measures at the glacial lake overlooking the Andean city of Huaraz, in proportion to its contribution to climate change. Luciano Lliuya and his family live in a part of the town which is acutely threatened by flooding due to accelerated glacial retreat caused by climate change. If a portion of the melting glacier were to break off into the lake below, this could lead to a devastating flood wave, which studies say would directly impact 50,000 people. Even so, RWE is denying the claim.

“Those who have caused these hazards must also bear their share of the costs for protecting the people affected by them,” says Klaus Milke, chairman of the environment and development organization Germanwatch, which is supporting and advising Luciano Lliuya in his efforts. “We are hoping for the kind of effect we saw in the tobacco industry: If such civil lawsuits succeed, there will finally be much greater pressure on policy-makers to act.” The foundation "Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit" is covering the claimant’s legal and court expenses in this precedent-setting case and, to that end, is calling for donations.