Press Release | 03 November 2017

Germany: Higher District Court Hamm hears "Climate Suit" against RWE

On November 13th the fifth Civil Senate of the Higher District Court Hamm will hear the case of the Peruvian mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya against the German utility RWE

Bonn/Hamm (3rd Nov. 2017). On November 13th (Monday) starting 12:30 pm (CET), the fifth Civil Senate of the Oberlandesgericht (Higher District Court) of Hamm (Germany) will conduct an oral hearing in the appeal of the Peruvian farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya. The court hearing will take placing during the UN Climate Summit in Bonn (Nov. 6-17). In this climate justice lawsuit, the core question is whether the energy corporation RWE may be held partially responsible for protective measures against climate change in the high Andes in Peru. There, the city of Huaraz is threatened by a flood wave from a glacial lake that has increased in volume as a result of climate change. The Landgericht (District Court) Essen rejected the civil law suit that is – so far - unique in Europe. The question is now whether the higher court will enter into the evidentiary phase which would establish a ground-breaking precedence. If the court progresses to this stage, it would establish that such a civil suit could prove successful if enough detailed evidence of causation is provided.

‘I am confident that the Oberlandesgericht Hamm will take this case seriously. In principal, the claim is conclusive – now the evidentiary phase must begin because a number of facts are disputed between the parties’, says the plaintiff’s lawyer, Dr. Roda Verheyen (Hamburg). ‘For my client this would mean that a fundamental responsibility for the consequences of climate change lies with the large contributors. The risk of flooding in Huaraz is a consequence of anthropogenic global warming and therefore a consequence of the defendant’s emissions. We can prove it and we want to prove it.‘

Claimant Saúl Luciano Lliuya, who will also be present in Hamm, adds: 'For me, RWE is partly responsible for the dangers that are threatening us in Huaraz. According to scientific studies, the lake above my hometown is rising due to accelerated glacial melting and the threat of flooding caused by glacial avalanches is growing. RWE is one of the largest emitters in the world. These companies have not taken responsibility for the consequences of their emissions. You don't have to be a lawyer to know this isn't just.’

The case could become legal precedent.  Saúl Luciano Lliuya wants RWE to contribute to protection measures for the glacial lake above Huaraz on the basis of the company’s contribution to anthropogenic climate change (CO2 emissions).  The part of the city in which Luciano Lliuya and his family live is threatened by acute risk of flooding caused by climate-change induced glacial retreat. Ice breaking off the melting glacier over the lake could lead to a devastating flood that would immediately affect up to 50.000 people, according to studies. Nevertheless, RWE rejects the claim.

'Anyone who causes a risk is responsible for part of the costs for measures to protect the affected people‘, says Klaus Milke, chairman of the environmental development organisation Germanwatch that supports and advises Luciano Lliuyas in his claim. 'We believe that such cases can help increase political pressure. The climate summit taking place in Bonn at the same time as the hearing will serve as a sounding board for this case. In the long run, political solutions have to be found for all those that are already being affected and will be affected by further losses and damages in the future due to climate change caused by others.’

The foundation Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit is covering the claimant's legal fees in this test case and is calling for donations.