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:
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.
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:
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
„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“,