For the first time, a company responsible for climate change faces legal charges in Europe: Today, the Peruvian farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya is filing a lawsuit against the German utility RWE at the Regional Court in Essen, Germany. The reason: The energy company’s immense emissions threaten his family, his property as well as a large part of his home city of Huaraz.
The "Huaraz Case" at a glance
24.11.2015: Saúl Luciano Lliuya files the lawsuit, which is classified by the District Court Essen as "a legal matter with fundamental significance".
June 2016: In its statement of defence, RWE disputes its own responsibility for climate change induced damage in the Andes and denies that Huaraz even faces a risk of flooding.
24.11.2016: The first oral hearing takes place amid great national and international interest – the decision was adjourned.
15.12.2016: The District Court Essen dismisses the civil lawsuit against RWE.
26.01.2017: Saúl Luciano Lliuya files an appeal before the Higher Regional Court Hamm against the negative ruling of the Regional Court Essen.
13.11.2017: The appeal at the Higher District Court Hamm is scheduled as an oral hearing.
30.11.2017: The Higher Regional Court Hamm announces its decision to enter into the evidentiary stage thereby writing legal history.
25.02.2018 and 14.03.2018: The Higher Regional Court of Hamm clearly rejects two statements of objection filed by RWE’s lawyers against the Court’s Order for the Hearing of Evidence and states once again: climate damages can give rise to corporate liability.
July 2018: Since plaintiff and defendant cannot agree on experts for the taking of evidence, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm announces that it will select them itself.
September 2018: The experts selected by the Higher Regional Court of Hamm accept their appointment. They will provide an opinion on the question of wether or not there is a serious threat of impairment to the plaintiff‘s property. If this question is answered positively, there will be taking of evidence with regards to the defendant‘s part of responsibility for this impairment due to RWE‘s CO₂ emissions.
2019: On the recommendation of the experts, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm has made a request to the State of Peru to be allowed to inspect the premises that are the subject of the lawsuit. The Court is at present awaiting response from the competent authorities, which can take quite some time to process.
2020: Unfortunately, the taking of evidence in Huaraz will be further delayed due to the Corona-crisis and resulting travel restrictions.
Am 24. November 2015 zog Saúl Luciano Lliuya aus der peruanischen Andenstadt Huaraz für den Schutz seines Lebensraumes vor ein deutsches Gericht. Er reichte seine Klage ein, um einen der größten Emittenten für die Folgen seiner klimaschädlichen Wirtschaftsweise haftbar zu machen. Mit dem Fall Huaraz wurde juristisches Neuland betreten. Inzwischen ist es eine weltweit wahrgenommene Musterklage, die es in die Beweisaufnahme geschafft hat und eine Signalwirkung wie keine andere Klage entfaltet.
In a recent video feature, British television station Channel 4 News poses the question "Who should pay to fix the climate emergency?". Journalist Simon Roach vividly explains why this is a question of fairness and justice, bringing together the various dimensions that form part of the answer: Starting at the industrial revolution, he looks at individual countries’ contributions to climate change, explains the sometimes confusing world of climate diplomacy, describes climate impacts and the resulting need for climate finance.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm had increasingly envisaged the on-site visit in Huaraz in the context of the taking of evidence in this high profile climate lawsuit. Now, unfortunately, it will be further delayed due to the crisis and resulting travel restrictions.
On Saturday 7th December, leaders of grassroots movements from across the Global South came together for the first time at COP25 to collectively discuss the growing international climate justice movement in response to the global climate crisis. The session was a powerful discussion about resilience, repression and accountability in using the law to address the highly disruptive and damaging consequences of climate change for communities.
The plaintiff Saúl Luciano Lliuya and his family need a lot of patience in this worldwide-perceived lawsuit. After the court's decision to enter into the evidentiary stage, it had taken a long time until the official experts for the taking of evidence could be determined. This was partly due to objections by RWE‘s lawyers, which were rejected by the court.
Now even more time is needed to realize a recent court-appointed on-site visit to Peru/Huaraz.
"I am happy to have become active and it overwhelms me how much interest and support I have received in my country and around the world. This gives me the courage and strength to move forward. Climate change affects all countries in the world. Therefore we have to stand up for justice."
Channel 4 News, 15.07.2020
Video: Who should pay to fix the climate emergency?
ABC Australia, 12.07.2020
Podcast: Climate in the Courtroom (Part 2 of 3): A fossil fuel company is sued. Now it speaks.
Pulitzer Center, 19.05.2020
In Order to Talk About Climate Change, We Need to Talk About Colonialism
Climate lawsuits are breaking new legal ground to protect the planet
The New York Times Magazine, 09.04.2019
Climate Change Could Destroy His Home in Peru. So He Sued an Energy Company in Germany.
TIME Magazine, 05.10.2018
Climate Change Could Destroy This Peruvian Farmer's Home
Deutsche Welle, 14.03.2018
Video: Farmer in Peru vs. a German utility (4 min.)
Peruvian Farmer Explains His Lawsuit Against Energy Firm
Deutsche Welle (english), 09.01.2018
Four climate change lawsuits to watch in 2018
The Guardian, 30.11.2017
German court to hear Peruvian farmer's climate case against RWE
The Guardian, 10.09.2017
See you in court (Editorial)
International Business Times, 25.11.16
A Peruvian farmer is suing German energy giant RWE over climate change
New York Times, 10.05.2017
In Novel Tactic on Climate Change, Citizens Sue Their Governments
The Guardian / theguardian.com, 16.03.2015
Peruvian farmer demands climate compensation from German company