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RWE lawsuit (re climate change)

Palcacocha_lake_via_wikimedia_commonsFür die deutsche Beschreibung des Falles, klicken Sie hier.

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

In March 2015, Peruvian farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya filed a letter of complaint against RWE, a German energy company over the impact of its activities on climate change. 

The plaintiff alleges that his home in Huaraz, on the floodpath of Palcacocha Lake, is “acutely threatened” by the potential collapse of two glaciers into the lake that would cause significant flooding as a consequence of global warming.  He alleges that RWE has been a major emitter of greenhouse gases, which are causing glacial retreat increasing the risk of flooding in the area.  The plaintiff asks RWE to pay £14,250 for its contribution to global warming.  This amount is 0.47% of the estimated repair cost in case of flooding, and this figure corresponds to the Institute of Climate Responsibility’s estimation that RWE is responsible of 0.47% of global warming emissions from 1751 to 2010.  The compensation would be invested in installing a glacial flood outburst early warning system, draining the Palcacocha Lake and building new dams or improving existing ones, in order to prevent the risk of flooding in the area. 

In May 2015, RWE issued its official reply to the plaintiff’s letter of complaint maintaining that the claims lack a legal basis and the company is therefore not responsible, rejecting his request for compensation.

In November 2015, Lliuya filed a lawsuit against RWE in German court.  On 24 November 2016, hearings began in a district court in Germany.  On 15 December 2016, the lawsuit was dismissed because the judge found that the plaintiff had not established that RWE was legally responsible for protecting Huaraz from flooding.  In January 2017, the plaintiff filed an appeal.

After an initial hearing on 13 November 2017 when the higher regional court found that the appeal had merit and granted a delay to both parties to provide further arguments, the court confirmed on 30 November 2017 that it would proceed to hearing the case. The court said it would consult experts in cooperation with both parties to measure defendant's contribution to the risks of flooding. RWE dismissed the farmer's complaint once again as unfounded and maintains the position that a single company cannot be held responsible for the consequences of climate change. 

The case is on-going.

- "German court to hear Peruvian farmer's climate case against RWE", AFP and Guardian, 30 Nov 2017
- "Peruvian climate lawsuit against German coal giant dismissed", Climate Home, 15 Dec 2016
- "Peruvian farmer sues German energy firm RWE", Deutsche Welle, 24 Nov 2016
- "Claim blaming utility for devastating glacier melt in Peru may set landmark legal precedent", Lisa Friedman, E & E Publising, LLC; 6 Apr 2015
- "Peruvian farmer demands climate compensation from German company", Dan Collyns, Guardian (UK), 16 Mar 2015
- [DE] RWE unter Druck, Svenja Beller, Greenpeace Magazin, 16 Mar 2015
- [DE] Peruanischer Bauer droht mit Klage gegen RWE, Handelsblatt, 16 Mar 2015

- Company response, 23 Mar 2015

- Saúl versus RWE - The Case of Huaraz 
Court documents of the 'Case of Huaraz', Dec 2017

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Author: Germanwatch

[...] Es hatte schon nach der Entscheidung des Gerichts zur Aufnahme der Beweisführung lange gedauert, bis die offiziellen Gutachter bestimmt werden konnten. Dies lag u. a. an Einwürfen der RWE-Anwälte, die vom Gericht zurückgewiesen wurden.

Nun wird noch einmal viel Zeit benötigt, bis ein vor kurzem vom Gericht angesetzter Ortstermin in Peru/Huaraz umgesetzt werden kann. Es gibt leider kein zwischenstaatliches Rechtshilfeabkommen zwischen Deutschland und Peru. Daher hat das OLG Hamm ein Ersuchen an den Staat Peru gestellt, die streitgegenständlichen Örtlichkeiten in Augenschein nehmen zu dürfen. Dieses wird voraussichtlich eine Bearbeitungszeit von circa einem Jahr in Anspruch nehmen.

Gleichzeitig wird die Gefährdung offensichtlich: Am 5. Februar ist eine Eislawine in den Gletschersee abgegangen und es wurden 4,5 Meter hohe Wellen ausgelöst, die der 7 Meter hohe Damm glücklicherweise halten konnte.

Allerdings zeigt das Ereignis, dass der Damm unzureichend ist. "Es fehlte nicht viel und er wäre überspült worden. Eine größere Lawine könnte dies leicht herbeiführen", beschreibt Noah Walker-Crawford, Consultant von Germanwatch, die Lage vor Ort. [...]

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11 April 2019

Peru: Indigenous man files lawsuit against largest Germany energy company, RWE

Author: New York Times

“Climate Change Could Destroy His Home in Peru. So He Sued an Energy Company in Germany.”, 9th April 2019

…One day, five years ago, Luciano Lliuya sat talking with a friend about the many changes and costs that climate change is bringing to the Andes, whose residents have, by global standards, done very little to contribute to the problem. “We wondered,” he said, “whether we could find los responsables” — the responsible ones — and somehow persuade them to change their behavior. He wanted, fervently, to find a way to stop the ice from melting even more. Luciano Lliuya’s friend introduced him to a contact at a nongovernment organization called Germanwatch, based in Bonn, that works to promote equity between developed and less-developed countries. In 2015, with the group’s support, Luciano Lliuya, who had never left his country, traveled 6,500 miles to file a lawsuit against RWE, Germany’s largest energy utility. The lawsuit claimed that the company, though it does not operate in Peru, had contributed about half of 1 percent of the emissions that are causing the global climate to change and that it should therefore be responsible for half of 1 percent of the cost of containing the lake that might destroy Luciano Lliuya’s house. His claim entered the courts in the form of a demand for $19,000…

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5 November 2018

RWE lawsuit: First test case in Europe to clarify responsibilities of carbon majors for climate change

Author: Dr. Roda Verheyen, counsel in Lliuya v. RWE AG, Roxana Baldrich, Policy Advisor and Christoph Bals, Policy Director, Germanwatch, April 2018

Marion Cadier speaks with Dr. Roda Verheyen (legal counsel in Lliuya v. RWE AG), Roxana Baldrich (Policy Advisor at Germanwatch) and Christoph Bals (Policy Director at Germanwatch) about the lawsuit brought by Saul Luciano Lliuya against RWE in relation to its contribution to climate change (the Huaraz case).

In November 2015, Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a Peruvian farmer living in Huaraz in Peru, filed a lawsuit in Germany against RWE, Germany’s largest electricity producer.  Mr Lliuya claims that his house in the village of Huaraz is at imminent risk of being damaged or destroyed due to an outburst flood from a glacial lake, caused by the melting of glaciers linked to climate change.  Lliuya argues that RWE has contributed nearly 0,5 percent of global manmade emissions since industrial revolution.  And he asked the court to order RWE to reimburse him for the same portion of the costs of establishing flood protection.  A first instance court dismissed the claim in December 2016.  However, the appeal court determined that the demand for damages was admissible, allowing the case to proceed.

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5 October 2018

Climate Change Could Destroy This Peruvian Farmer's Home. Now He's Suing a European Energy Company for Damages

Author: Ciara Nugent, Time

Saúl Luciano Lliuya...filed a lawsuit against energy company RWE...Lliuya claims that...RWE...should pay for 0.5% of the cost of flood defenses for Huaraz...The suit was initially dismissed in Essen.  But in November, a higher court in Germany ruled he was on sound legal ground and agreed to hear the case...

...Lliuya’s lawsuit...is based on a nuisance law in the German civil code normally used in disputes between neighbors...The court ruled it could apply to RWE’s carbon emissions potentially damaging Lliuya’s home...

...[M]any doubt there is enough evidence to link a particular instance of climate change to a specific company like RWE...Roda Verheyen, the lawyer leading Lliuya’s case, says that is not their intention...Verheyen argues that carbon dioxide emitted by RWE has contributed to raising the probability of extraordinary events like glacier melt or breakages threatening Lliuya’s home...[T]he court appointed two experts...Over the coming months they’ll assess the risk to Lliuya’s home, the role of climate change and to what degree RWE is responsible.  The outcome largely rests on their conclusion, Verheyen says.  Guido Steffen, a spokesperson for RWE, says Lliuya’s claims have no legal basis...If Lliuya wins his case, it might set a significant legal precedent in Europe. But even the lower court ruling was a valuable win, Verheyen says...

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Author: Entwicklungspolitik Online

Das Oberlandesgericht Hamm hat im Verfahren des peruanischen Bergführers und Kleinbauern Saúl Luciano Lliuya gegen RWE eine Art Eilantrag ("Gegenvorstellung") des Unternehmens gegen den Beweisbeschluss zurückgewiesen. Damit habe das Gericht unmissverständlich klargestellt, dass große Emittenten für Folgen des Klimawandels zur Verantwortung gezogen werden können... Jetzt könne es unverzüglich in die Beweisaufnahme gehen.

"Wie erwartet hat das Gericht erneut klar festgestellt: Klimaschäden können eine Unternehmenshaftung begründen", sagte Dr. Roda Verheyen (Hamburg), die Rechtsanwältin des Klägers. "Das wird in diesem Beschluss sogar noch deutlicher als im vorherigen Beweisbeschluss vom November. Endlich gehen wir jetzt wirklich in die Beweisaufnahme." [...]

Entgegen der Meinung von RWE sei auch die Haftung nicht dadurch ausgeschlossen, dass die Kohleverstromung in Deutschland zur Daseinsvorsorge beitrage. Es sei nicht erforderlich, dass die Treibhausgasemissionen selbst rechtswidrig seien, so das Gericht. Es reiche, dass die Beeinträchtigung - also hier das Flutrisiko aus dem Gletschersee - "unzumutbar" sei...

Das macht diesen Fall schon jetzt zu einem weltweit relevanten Präzedenzfall. Und das sogar unabhängig davon, wie die bevorstehende Prüfung der wissenschaftlichen Begründetheit in diesem Einzelfall ausfällt... 

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Author: Germanwatch

"Historischer Durchbruch mit weltweiter Relevanz bei 'Klimaklage'", 30 Nov 2017

Die heute verkündete Entscheidung des Oberlandesgerichts Hamm für den Eintritt in die Beweisaufnahme im Fall Saúl Luciano Lliuya gegen RWE ist von größter rechtlicher Bedeutung. Erstmals hat ein Gericht bejaht, dass prinzipiell ein privates Unternehmen für seinen Anteil an der Verursachung klimabedingter Schäden verantwortlich ist. Dies gilt dann, wenn ein Anteil konkreter Schäden oder Risiken für Privatpersonen oder ihr Eigentum den Aktivitäten des Unternehmens zugeordnet werden kann... [D]ie heutige Entscheidung [hat] nach Einschätzung der Umwelt- und Entwicklungsorganisation Germanwatch, die die Klage unterstützt, ab sofort erhebliche Auswirkungen für die Rechtspflichten der großen Emittenten weltweit. Das entsprechende Klagerisiko müsse gegenüber den Aktieninhabern mitgeteilt und entsprechende finanzielle Rücklagen gebildet werden - Investoren müssten dieses Risiko bei ihrer Anlageentscheidung berücksichtigen... Die Entscheidung etabliert mit solider Begründung die rechtliche Kausalität für solche Fälle, die bislang nicht akzeptiert worden war...

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30 November 2017

Germany: Decision by High Court to hear case against RWE has immediate implications for legal duties of emitters, says NGO

Author: Germanwatch

"Historic breakthrough with global impact in 'climate lawsuit'", 30 Nov 2017

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... Today’s decision [...] has immediate implications on the legal duties of great emitters all around the globe... The relevant litigation risk has to be communicated to shareholders and adequate financial reserves must be built - investors will have to take those risks into account when taking their investment decisions... The decision establishes a solid argument for legal causality in cases that were not accepted before... The case at hand now enters into the next stage – the taking of evidence. After the legal argument of this case has been accepted by the court, the task is now to prove the plaintiff’s concrete claims before the court.

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30 November 2017

Germany: High court confirms it will hear Peruvian farmer's climate change case against RWE

Author: AFP (France) and Guardian (UK)

German court to hear Peruvian farmer's climate case against RWE ", 30 Nov 2017

A German court has ruled that it will hear a Peruvian farmer’s case against energy giant RWE over climate change damage in the Andes...

...Lliuya argues that RWE, as one of the world’s top emitters of climate-altering carbon dioxide, must share in the cost of protecting his hometown Huaraz from a swollen glacier lake at risk of overflowing from melting snow and ice.

...Now the court must decide whether “the accused’s contribution to the chain of events depicted here is measurable and calculable,”...

...The court said in a statement that it will choose experts to evaluate the claim in cooperation with both plaintiff and defendant, with Lliuya paying about €20,000 in fees up front.

...RWE could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Author: Germanwatch

"Großemittenten sind verantwortlich für Folgen des Klimawandels", 13 November 2017

Der als "Klimaklage" bekannt gewordene Fall des peruanischen Bergführers und Kleinbauern Saúl Luciano Lliuya gegen RWE geht weiter... Für Luciano Lliuya und seine Anwältin Dr. Roda Verheyen (Hamburg) ist das ein enormer Etappenerfolg. "Der 5. Zivilsenat hat heute Rechtsgeschichte geschrieben. Dieses Votum ist eindeutig", sagte Verheyen strahlend nach der Verhandlung. "Erstmals meint ein Gericht, dass Mitverursacher des Klimawandels grundsätzlich für den Schutz vor Risiken aufkommen müssen, die anderen infolge der Klimaveränderung entstehen. Dass RWE mitverantwortlich ist für die Gefahren in Huaraz, müssen wir jetzt im Detail beweisen..." [...] [J]etzt wird offensichtlich, dass auch große Konzerne Verantwortung übernehmen müssen für die Folgen ihres Handelns", sagte Lliuya.

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13 November 2017

Germany: Lawsuit regarding RWE's alleged climate change contribution to move forward, says appeal court

Author: Peter Wirth & Michelle Fitzpatrick, AFP & Digital Journal

"Peruvian farmer scores small win in court over German energy giant", 13 Nov 2017

...[A] German court said [a Peruvian farmer's] appeal against...RWE, which he accuses of contributing to climate change that is threatening his Andean home, had merit.

...[T]he higher regional court in the western city of Hamm said Saul Luciano Lliuya's demand for damages from RWE was "admissible", paving the way for the case to proceed.

Luciano argues that RWE, as one of the world's top emitters of climate-altering carbon dioxide, must share in the cost of protecting his hometown Huaraz from a swollen glacier lake at risk of overflowing from melting snow and ice...

The appeal court's decision... was hailed as a win by climate change activists...

...The Hamm court said it would give both sides until November 30 to provide further arguments before deciding on the next steps, but that it was "likely" the case would proceed to hearing evidence.

...After the decision, RWE reiterated its view that the complaint was "not acceptable" and was even "unjustified," arguing that a single company cannot be held liable for specific consequences of climate change...

...Luciano wants RWE to pay 17,000 euros ($20,000) to help pay for flood defences fo his community in Peru's northern Ancas region...[and] to reimburse him for the 6,384 euros he...has spent on protective measures...

[See RWE case profile here]

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