RWE lawsuit (re climate change)
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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
All components of this story
Am 13. November (Montag) ab 12:30 Uhr wird der 5. Zivilsenat des Oberlandesgerichts Hamm die Berufung des peruanischen Bergführers und Kleinbauern Saúl Luciano Lliuya mündlich verhandeln. Der Termin fällt mitten in die zweiwöchige UN-Klimakonferenz in Bonn (6. - 17. Nov.). Bei dem als "Klimaklage" bekannt gewordenen Fall geht es um die Frage, ob der Energiekonzern RWE anteilig für Schutzmaßnahmen vor Klimawandelfolgen in den Hochanden aufkommen muss. Dort droht eine Flutwelle infolge eines durch den Klimawandel stark angeschwollenen Gletschersees oberhalb der Stadt Huaraz. Das Landgericht Essen hatte die Zivilklage in erster Instanz des in Europa einmaligen Falles abgewiesen. Nun geht es darum, ob die Beweisaufnahme eröffnet wird. Wenn dies geschieht, wäre dies ein Durchbruch in dem Präzedenzverfahren. Denn damit würde das Gericht akzeptieren, dass der Fall zu gewinnen ist, wenn die Beweise im Detail ausreichen.
USA: California lawsuits against 37 fossil fuel companies may change landscape of climate change litigation, say lawyers
Author: Nicholas M. Berg, David Nordsieck & Michael R. Littenberg, Ropes & Gray LLP, on Lexology (USA)
“Spate of Suits Brought by California Communities for Sea Level Rise May Change Landscape of Climate Change Litigation”, 8 Aug 2017
A recent trio of cases filed in California state court seek to hold  major fossil fuel companies liable for the effects of sea level rise they allege to be caused by climate change…
A spokesperson for one of the defendants has been quoted as saying in response to the lawsuits that “climate change is a complex societal challenge” that “should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change…not by the courts.” A spokesperson for Norwegian oil & gas company Statoil, also a named defendant, agreed, stating: “previous cases have been dismissed” because climate change “is a political, not judicial, issue.”…
…It is too early to say how trends and decisions abroad may impact climate change litigation brought here in the U.S. against private companies. But the recent trio of California lawsuits may prove to be bellwethers of whether courts in the U.S. have become more receptive to climate change litigation. Even if the claims are not ultimately successful, the theories of liability that these California communities have asserted—some of which are novel in this context—may reshape the landscape of corporate social responsibility litigation in the years to come as society settles on the appropriate role of the courts in responding to climate change.
- Related stories: California communities’ lawsuit against 37 fossil fuel companies (re climate change compensation) Kivalina lawsuit (re global warming) RWE lawsuit (re climate change) USA: 3 Californian communities sue 37 “carbon majors” seeking compensation for costs of adapting to sea level rises linked to climate change Show moreShow less
- Related in-depth areas: Latest Legal News
- Related companies: Statoil
Video: Interview with Peruvian plaintiff & his lawyer about the climate change lawsuit against RWE in Germany
Author: VICE News
Author: German Watch
Saúl Luciano Lliuya will file an appeal to the Higher Regional Court Hamm (Germany) against the decision made by the District Court Essen. The Peruvian, who lives in the high Andes, aims to make the german energy corporation RWE bear a share of the costs for protective measures against the impacts of climate change on his home...“The reasoning of the Regional Court Essen for dismissing the lawsuit is wrong, in our opinion,” says attorney Verheyen. “...Despite the fact, that the court acknowledged the possibility of a scientific causation, it assumed that a legal causality is lacking in any such a case...We hope that the Higher Regional Court Hamm shares our interpretation of the law...”...This case will set a precedent. Saúl Luciano Lliuya seeks from RWE a share of the costs for protective measures at the glacial lake...“Those who have caused these hazards must also bear their share of the costs for protecting the people affected by them,” says Klaus Milke, chairman of the environment and development organization Germanwatch...
Author: Megan Darby, Climate Change News
"Peruvian climate lawsuit against German coal giant dismissed", 15 Dec 2016
A climate lawsuit by Peruvian farmer and mountain guide Saul Luciano Lliuya against energy company RWE was dismissed by Essen district court, Germany, on Thursday...He was seeking €17,000 from RWE towards a dam to protect up to 50,000 people at risk, in light of the utility’s historic contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. But the judge ruled that while there was “scientific causality”, his lawyer Roda Verheyen had not demonstrated “legal causality”. In other words, the court was not convinced RWE was legally responsible for protecting Huaraz, despite evidence that its activities had contributed to the town’s predicament...Undeterred, Verheyen said her client would “most likely appeal” to Hamm regional court...If successful on appeal, it could inspire a wave of similar claims...A spokesperson for RWE said Thursday’s judgment vindicated the company’s arguments: “Due to a world-wide variety of greenhouse gas emissions from natural and anthropological sources, the complexity of the climate as well as its natural variability, in RWE’s opinion it is not possible to attribute specific effects of change in the climate to just one emitter.”...
Author: Patricia Jolly, Le Monde (France)
« Climat : la justice allemande rejette la plainte d'un fermier péruvien contre un géant de l'énergie », 15 décembre 2016
C’était la première plainte du genre en Europe, mais la justice allemande l’a rejetée. Saùl Luciano Lliuya, un agriculteur et guide de haute montagne péruvien, qui demandait une compensation à l’énergéticien allemand RWE pour les dommages causés par le réchauffement climatique dans sa commune de Huaraz, dans le nord du Pérou, a été débouté, jeudi 15 décembre. Ses demandes étaient en partie « irrecevables » et en partie « infondées », a fait savoir le tribunal d’Essen dans un communiqué.
… Selon [M. Lliuya, RWE]– dont aucune centrale n’est basée au Pérou – est partiellement responsable de la fonte des glaciers andins. Et celle-ci fait peser la menace d’une inondation de grande ampleur sur sa famille, sa propriété, et près de la moitié des habitants de Huaraz…
Le tribunal l’a débouté de sa demande, jugeant que RWE ne pouvait être rendu responsable individuellement d’une telle menace, car « il existe de nombreux autres émetteurs qui dégagent des gaz à effet de serre ». Dans un communiqué, RWE a, de son côté, expliqué qu’en raison de la multiplicité des sources d’émissions de gaz à effet de serre dans le monde – naturelles ou industrielles –, et de la complexité du climat, il n’est pas « possible d’imputer juridiquement à un seul émetteur des effets spécifiques du changement climatique ».
…[M. Lliuya fera] « très probablement » appel du jugement du tribunal d’Essen.
Author: Deutsche Welle (Germany)
"Peruvian farmer sues German energy firm RWE", 24 Nov 2016
A Peruvian farmer and mountain guide is suing German energy firm RWE, alleging its contribution to climate change is threatening his home, in a trial which began today...Germany. Saúl Lliuya...says his family and a large part of the city are facing catastrophic flooding as global warming melts a nearby glacier. As a result, water levels in the mountain lake above the city are increasing, meaning that his family home could be swept away by a 30-meter high flood wave....RWE's coal power emissions contribute to around 0.5 percent of global climate change, so the company should have to pay around half a percent of the measures required for protecting Lliyua's home and the area...RWE says the case is groundless and has no legal basis...From a legal standpoint, a victory for the plaintiff seems unlikely. Similar cases have failed in the past on account of a lack of evidence showing the defendant is specifically responsible for possible damages...The court will make an announcement in December...It is the first time a German civil court has been asked to rule on whether a company contributing to climate change can be held responsible...
Author: Kristen C. French, The Verge (USA)
“A Peruvian farmer is suing an energy giant over climate change”, 2 Dec 2015
…In a legal challenge well timed to coincide with the Paris climate talks…Saul Luciano Lliuya, filed a lawsuit last Tuesday against German energy giant RWE for its contribution to climate change. It is the first such claim in Europe, and it could set an important legal precedent at a time when the world’s first climate change refugees are just beginning to emerge…He wants the company to help pay for engineering projects that will prevent the lake, called Palcacocha, from overflowing its banks…The sum Lliuya is demanding is…0.47 percent of the estimated cost of engineering projects that would protect against flooding of Lake Palcacocha…RWE is responsible for 0.47 percent of all global warming emissions…Lliuya first filed a letter of complaint in March, but after the company rejected his request for compensation, he decided to go ahead with a lawsuit...RWE said the company "sees no legal basis" for the claim…In the US, similar claims brought against energy companies have been rejected…A couple of recent climate change claims have had success in the courts, but in both cases the plaintiffs aimed to force governments to act rather than to retrieve damages from corporations…
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Author: Megan Darby, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC)
"Around the world in 5 climate change lawsuits", 9 Jun 2015
...Saul Luciano Lliuya is arguing that German energy firm RWE should pay compensation for its historic activities. The Peruvian farmer lives in the floodpath of a glacial lake that is on the verge of bursting its banks as greenhouse gases heat up the climate. He is asking RWE...to pay €20,000 towards work to protect the valley...[A] victory would open the floodgates for thousands if not millions of claims. In May, RWE rejected the claim, denying responsibility for the risks faced by Luciano Lliuya...In a similar vein...Greenpeace is looking at ways to sue fossil fuel majors...Along with local campaign groups, it is drumming up a petition to get the Philippines Commission on Human Rights to investigate...Greenpeace will argue the likes of Gazprom, Glencore Xstrata and Exxon Mobil are violating the human rights of Filipinos by profiting from climate-polluting energy...Pacific island leaders last month declared their intention to challenge these carbon giants in the courts. Kristin Caspar, legal counsel for Greenpeace, told RTCC: “The courts, as we have seen, are a powerful platform to hear the concerns about climate harm...
Author: Lisa Friedman, E & E Publishing, LLC (USA)
A Peruvian farmer who has watched glaciers melt "literally under his feet" is demanding that a German energy company compensate him for its role in causing climate change and putting his mountain village at risk of obliteration...Saul Luciano Lliuya's claim against utility company RWE AG...could just as easily have been lodged against Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. or any other major carbon polluter in the world...But after speaking with activists from advocacy group Germanwatch, Lliuya opted to focus on Europe's largest emitter of greenhouse gases...Roda Verheyen, an environmental lawyer representing Lliuya [said] "He has nothing to gain for this personally except for the protection of his community."...Legal experts say that no matter the monetary compensation levels being asked, the case could be a landmark in the making. While it is not the first global warming litigation of its kind, observers said it goes further than others in linking a specific climate risk to a specific climate polluter...Verheyen said she hopes the suit will spur new action toward an agreement on loss and damage, and predicted that would happen if the court ultimately ruled in Lliuya's favor...
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