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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28 March 2017

Video: Interview with Peruvian plaintiff & his lawyer about the climate change lawsuit against RWE in Germany

Author: VICE News

26 January 2017

Climate Suit against RWE: Peruvian Mountain Guide Will Appeal

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...

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16 December 2016

German court dismisses Peruvian farmer's lawsuit against RWE over climate change

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.”...

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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.

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25 November 2016

Hearings begin in Germany for Peruvian farmer's lawsuit against RWE over climate change

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...


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3 December 2015

Peruvian farmer files lawsuit against RWE in Germany over contribution to climate change

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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9 July 2015

Increasing number of legal complaints against companies over climate change responsibility

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 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...

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6 April 2015

Claim blaming utility for devastating glacier melt in Peru may set landmark legal precedent

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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Author: Isabel Carreño G., La República (Perú)

“Peruano reclama a empresa alemana por desglaciación en Huaraz” – 16 de marzo de 2015

Glaciares andinos

Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a través de una carta de reclamación a la empresa eléctrica RWE…exige que responda económicamente por las medidas de protección que se deben tomar para la ciudad frente al cambio climático y a un posible aluvión en la zona…Con el apoyo y soporte de la ONG medioambiental alemana Germanwatch, con la que se contactó durante la COP20, Lluiya envió una carta a la compañía energética de ese país en la que el peruano exige el pago por las medidas de protección necesarias para sus tierras y su ciudad. Su abogada indicó que en el caso probable de que RWE se negara al pago, se evaluaría presentar una demanda…El Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático (IPCC)concluyó en un reciente estudio que el retroceso de los glaciares y el derretimiento de los glaciares tropicales andinos se atribuye al cambio climático, y por ende a la contaminación que generan muchas grandes compañías…En la carta de reclamación se explica que su propiedad, ubicada en la Nueva Florida, puede verse afectada por la erosión sustancial o destrucción absoluta causada por la inundación de la laguna Palcacocha, que se encuentra sobre la ciudad…[El Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos invitó a RWE a responder; su respuesta está disponible en alemán aquí y una traducción no oficial en inglés, aquí]

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Company response
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23 March 2015

Antwort von RWE

Author: RWE

"Das Schreiben der Rechtsanwältin von Herrn Saúl Luciano aus Huaraz (Peru) hat uns erreicht. Wir haben, wie bei allen anwaltlichen Anspruchsschreiben, mit einer Prüfung begonnen. Wir werden zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt inhaltlich Stellung nehmen."