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

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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

Press Release
Saúl Luciano Lliuya versus RWE: Following the legal debate, now the evidentary phase begins – Investors all around the world are now forced to take new litigation risks into account
The decision announced today by the Higher Regional Court Hamm (Germany) to enter into the evidentiary stage in the case of Saúl Luciano Lliuya against the german utility RWE is of great legal relevance. It is the first time that a court acknowledged that a private company is in principal responsible for its share in causing climate damages. This applies if concrete damages or risks for private persons or their property can partly be assigned to the activities of the relevant company.
On this page you can find the answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions about the case of Huaraz.
Press Release
The 5th civil chamber of the Higher District Court Hamm (Germany) wrote legal history today. It gave a clear statement that large emitters like RWE are liable for supporting people in poorer countries affected by climate change. The climate-suit of Saul Luciano Lliuya will therefore enter into the next phase. On 30th November, the court is expected to formally announce its decision to enter into the evidentiary phase. At that point, it will be necessary to provide sufficient evidence in this specific case to prove that RWE must provide a financial contribution as Luciano Lliuya has demanded. The court's argument is of great significance for many people who suffer from climate change impacts.
The case of RWE points to the major responsibility of large energy companies
The Peruvian farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya has filed a lawsuit against RWE.
Press Release
Parallel to the political negotiations at the UN Climate Summit in Bonn, the legalities of climate change and its consequences will be on the agenda in Hamm. The Peruvian mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya is taking his suit against RWE to the court of second instance.
The 5th Civil Chamber of the Higher District Court Hamm (Germany) has scheduled an oral hearing for the appeal of Peruvian mountain guide and small farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya for 13 November (Monday). The public hearing is set to take approximately two hours. The scheduled date lies in the middle of the two-week UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (Germany, 6 – 17 Nov.), which will likely attract added international attention to the case. The attorney for the claimant, Dr. Roda Verheyen (Hamburg), is pleased by the Higher District Court’s decision. “I am confident that this initial hearing will now be followed by an evidentiary phase."
Press Release
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.
Press Release
After the initial hearing at the regional court in Essen, the civil chamber will announce on December 15 whether the first European civil court climate case against a big emitter will proceed to the evidentiary phase. The Peruvian mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya wants to achieve that the energy giant RWE covers a share of the preventative measures against climate effects needed in his hometown.
In the “climate suit” of Peruvian mountain guide and small farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya against RWE, the regional court in Essen has announced that it will decide on December 15 whether the suit will proceed to the evidentiary phase. Thus it remains unclear whether, for the first time, a German civil court will probe in detail the question to what extent big contributors to climate change must pay for the costs of preventative measures against the risks that others face in the course of global climate change. The claimant Saúl Luciano Lliuya and his attorney Dr. Roda Verheyen (Hamburg) are optimistic. “In an open proceeding, we laid out why our claims are valid and legitimate, and why this is a matter that the regional court must consider”, says attorney Roda Verheyen.

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