Climate Change Litigation: Hamm Court of Appeals Considers Site Visit in Peru

Skulptur_vor_dem_Oberlandesgericht_-_panoramioWe have tracked the first major piece of Climate Change litigation in Germany, an action by Peruvian farmer Saul LLiuya against German energy company RWE, since it was started in November 2015. Here’s a recap of what happened so far:

LLiuya is suing RWE for its contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, and the damage (potentially) caused to his property in the city of Huaraz in Peru. It is located at the foot of the Andes below the Laguna Palcacocha, a natural moraine-dammed lake beneath the Palcaraju glacier. LLiuya alleges that, as a result of the melting of the glacier, the water volume of that lake has increased to a dangerous level. He believes that this has been caused by global greenhouse gas emissions. For these, he considered RWE be jointly responsible because, according to his estimate, it is causing 0.47% of the world-wide greenhouse gas emissions. Accordingly, RWE should be held responsible for any actual and future costs incurred by him to safeguard his property against floods and mudslides.

In December 2016, the District Court (Landgericht) Essen dismissed the action as either inadmissible or unfounded. Upon LLiuya’s appeal, the Court of Appeals (Oberlandesgericht) Hamm held the action to be admissible and issued an order for the taking of evidence, by way of an expert opinion.  On Wednesday, Legal Tribune Online reported that the appeal judges are now considering a site visit (Ortstermin) – according to the court’s spokesperson, discussions are ongoing to see whether such a site visit can be organized. It is not too far-fetched to assume that the judges are of the opinion that LLiuya has a good case in law, and the outcome of his case depends on factual findings.

Those amongst you who attended last year’s IBA Annual Litigation Forum in Berlin may remember that we had a session on “Geopolitics in Court” that was dedicated to climate change litigation. Roda Verheyen, who acts for Saul Lliuya, was one of the speakers.

The photo by Folto Fiti shows the court’s yard and a sculputre by Paul Dierkes, Divided Earth (Gespaltene Erde), 1959/1960.

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