Climate litigation at Germanwatch

Collage relevanter Kläger:innen bei Klimaklagen, an denen Germanwatch kommunikativ und strategisch beteiligt war

Those who risk and violate fundamental rights of individuals by emitting greenhouse gases have a double legal duty: firstly, to stop this violation so that (fundamental) rights are not undermined. Secondly, polluters must pay for the protection of those at risk and for any damage that occurs. In order to enforce these legal obligations in Germany and on the international level, Germanwatch is engaged in climate litigation.

We use litigation as a strategic tool to accelerate political solutions - such as for ambitious climate protection - where politics and business do not act sufficiently. We want to give affected people a voice and support them in taking their concerns to court on behalf of a large number of people, thereby increasing the pressure on politicians and companies to respect human rights and promote sustainable business models. Germanwatch supports the plaintiffs ideally and concretely with advice, expertise, networking and public relations.

Currently ongoing procedures:

Making polluters liable - The RWE Case

In his lawsuit against RWE, Saúl Luciano Lliuya from Peru is demanding that the company contribute to urgently needed protective measures to protect him and the inhabitants of the Andean city of Huaraz from a glacial flood.

>> To the website "The RWE Case"

>> Factsheet: All information on the case at a glance



Climate cases at the European Court of Human Rights

As third party intervener Germanwatch supports two climate cases currently pending at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg:

The lawsuit of six young people from Portugal who are sueing 33 states because they are violating their human rights by not reducing sufficiently their greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The case of the Swiss Climate Senior Women from Switzerland who went to Strasbourg to demand that the federal authorities correct the course of Swiss climate policy because the current climate targets and measures are not sufficient to limit global warming to a safe level and to protect their fundamental rights. The hearing took place in Strasbourg on 29 March 2023.

Both cases were given priority by the ECtHR and referred to the Grand Chamber. Together with partners such as Greenpeace, Scientists for Future and Climate Action Network Europe, Germanwatch is intervening to bring further legal arguments into these proceedings.


Climate cases already concluded:

For a Right to Future: The Constitutional Complaint

In 2020, nine young people between the ages of 15 and 32 from different regions of Germany decided to go to the Federal Constitutional Court to challenge the Federal Climate Protection Act (passed in 2019) because it is too weak to effectively contain the consequences of the climate crisis today and in the future. In spring 2021, the Court announced its groundbreaking decision. It states that today's insufficient climate policies affect tomorrow's freedoms and fundamental rights. It is a constitutional requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and this must no longer be delayed at the expense of younger generations. Germanwatch, Greenpeace and Protect the Planet supported the young plaintiffs.

>> Further informationen

>> To the factsheet: "There is a right to future."



The People's Climate Case

In May 2018, ten families affected by climate change from Europe, Kenya and Fiji, as well as a Sami youth association, filed a lawsuit with the European Court demanding the protection of their fundamental rights and calling on the European legislator to adapt the European climate targets for 2030 accordingly. The case was dismissed in 2021. Nevertheless, the demands of the plaintiffs were accepted on the political level: the EU adjusted its climate targets for 2030.

>> To the "People's climate case" website

Climate justice needs your support!
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We support those affected by the climate crisis in calling on governments to do more for mitigation and in holding major emitters accountable. Strategic litigation is an important part of our work. Support us with your donation!

Aktuelles zu Klimaklagen

European Court of Human Rights rules on climate cases
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) makes legal history with its landmark rulings on three climate litigation cases. The court made clear that climate change poses a major threat to human rights as protected by the Human Rights Convention. Every state is responsible for safeguarding the lives of its citizens from the climate crisis. A precedent that has an impact on all EU member states, including Germany. An analysis by Roda Verheyen and Gerd Winter.

Today, eight years ago, the Peruvian mountain guide and small farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya filed his civil lawsuit against RWE at the regional court in Essen in Germany. What began back then has now become one of the world's most recognised precedents for the question of whether individual major emitters must pay for protection against climate risks.

Press Release
New scientific study shows that climate lawsuits lead to a significant loss in value for companies with CO2-intensive business models / Researchers show: RWE share fell up to 6 percent due to Saúl Luciano Lliuya's lawsuit at Hamm Higher Regional Court

The environmental and development organisation Germanwatch points out that fossil fuel companies will have to disclose climate risks in their risk reports and have them externally audited. The reason for this is a new study by a team of researchers from the renowned London School of Economics and Political Science, which shows a clear connection between climate litigation and share price losses of affected companies.


More than 50,000 inhabitants of the Andean city of Huaraz are threatened by a flood wave due to global warming. The Andean farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya decided to take action: On 24 November 2015, he filed a lawsuit against the energy company RWE in a German civil court. One year after the court visit to Huaraz, the expert report will finally be available this summer. A hearing at the Higher Regional Court of Hamm is expected later this year.

Support Saúl!
Seven years ago, Saúl Luciano Lliuya from the Andean city of Huaraz (Peru) went to a German civil court to hold Europe's largest greenhouse gas emitter - RWE - accountable. What began then is now a globally respected precedent on the question of whether major emitters must pay for protecting people from climate risks. Show him your support!

This policy brief adresses two important questions:

Firstly, the role of climate litigation this far in adressing legal claims for loss and damage.

Secondly, the potential that climate litigation holds in redressing the claims of losses and damages.

The brief provides an analysis of how two arenas of legal action - negotiations and litigation - interact and how they can work together to provide a more robust legal basis for supporting issues of loss and damage.

Press Release
Climate case of a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide against German energy company RWE at the Higher Regional Court of Hamm: judges and experts travelled to Peru / experts examined the danger of a possible flood wave for the plaintiff's house

The climate lawsuit of the Peruvian Andean farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya against the energy company RWE has entered the decisive phase six and a half years after the lawsuit was filed: After a long delay, especially due to the Corona pandemic, a site visit took place this week in the Andean city of Huaraz. Judges of the Higher Regional Court (OLG) of Hamm (Germany), legal advisors and experts travelled to Peru to examine whether the plaintiff's house is threatened by a possible flood wave from the glacier lake Palcacocha above the city. The entire danger zone in Huaraz actually covers an area where around 50,000 people live.

The RWE case is finally moving forward: in summer, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm will conduct a site visit to Huaraz. The visit had been delayed since 2019 due to the COVID 19 pandemic. In Peru, judges and court-appointed experts will examine the risk of glacial lake outburst flood affecting the plaintiff Saúl Luciano Lliuya’s house.
Lüke Recktenwald from the North Sea island Langeoog is committed to climate protection at home and in court.
Lüke Recktenwald is a real "islander". His family has been living on the North Sea island of Langeoog for four generations and runs a hotel and restaurant. Whether Lüke will be able to live and work on the island in the future like his parents is uncertain, as Langeoog is increasingly threatened by the climate crisis. In this interview he tells how he experiences the climate and health crisis on the island and why he decided to go to court to demand climate protection.
Loss and damage (L&D) due to climate change impacts is already a reality for many people, especially the most vulnerable. So far, there is no prospect of sufficient financial support for dealing with actual L&D within the climate regime (UNFCCC). Where international climate diplomacy doesn’t advance, affected people start to take the legal avenue to address the problem of L&D. Based on this assessment, this paper analyses the status quo of international climate change litigation, revealing how the current court cases are turning an abstract risk of climate claims into a concrete one.

Strategic climate litigation

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A key aspect of strategic climate litigation is that the objectives they pursue go far beyond the individual interests of the plaintiffs. They aim, for example, to improve climate protection and the protection of fundamental rights, to create relevant precedents, to push overdue political decisions and to raise awareness


Short documentary about the case


Together for climate justice!

Banner: Collage mit Portraits von Unterstützer:innen von Saúl

Global neighbourhood in the climate crisis

From Pakistan to the Andes, people everywhere are confronted with the catastrophic effects of climate change. Saúl Luciano Lliuya - a farmer and mountain guide - lives in Peru, where global warming is contributing massively to the melting of glaciers and the risk of a glacier flood. That’s why Saúl Luciano Lliuya demands that Europe’s largest emitter RWE pays for protective measures. His case shows: In the fight for climate justice, we stand together. Support him with your signature!

Quotes from the plaintiffs

„With this outstanding decision, it is now clear that effective climate protection must happen today and not tomorrow. This is the only way to protect our fundamental rights and our livelyhood in the future. I am very happy about this success and the political dynamics that the decision is already causing“,

Lüke Recktenwald from Langeoog, plaintiff in the constitutional complaint.

A legal perspective on climate change