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12 Oct 2021

Roxana Baldrich, The Ecologist (UK)

Litigating for climate justice

Saúl Luciano Lliuya v. RWE AG was in November 2017 the first climate change lawsuit in which a court found that a private company could potentially be held liable for climate damages from its emissions, allowing the case to progress to the evidentiary stage.

In this specific case, “adverse impacts” means that, due to climate-induced glacial retreat, a glacial lake above the Andean city of Huaraz has grown in size and threatens to overflow or even break its dam.

The final goal of climate change lawsuits is the establishment of global corporate legal accountability as well as global political responsibility for climate change.

…[This] claim is based on the general nuisance provision under German civil law…

Nuisance is one of the oldest and most widely used causes of action, and provisions … exist in many other jurisdictions.

Applied to climate change lawsuits, this means that it can be used to ask for the financing of adaptation measures, or for compensation for climate harms.

While the facts of the “Huaraz Case” are still being evaluated in the ongoing evidentiary phase, the court’s recognition that a private company could potentially be held liable for the climate change related damages of its emissions marks a significant development in law.