The German district court of Essen dismissed a case that was launched by the Peruvian farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya. The case is reminiscent of the Dutch Urgenda case, which has been discussed earlier on this blog. Lliuya asked the court to rule in a civil lawsuit that the German energy company RWE, which is based in the city of Essen, has to pay, 17.000 Euros to a Peruvian community to compensate for its pollution, which is leading to climate change. The claim was based on § 1004 German Civil Code (BGB), which establishes that subjects interfering with alien property have to take immediate action to intercept the infringement of that property.
The farmer is owning a house in the Peruvian region of Huaraz in the Andes mountains. Above his premise lies a lake, which is fed by a glacier. Due to climate change the glacier is melting and the lake is about to spill over. This spill would inevítably damage his house. He argues that the glacier is melting, due to climate change and climate change has been caused, inter alia, by CO2 emissions of RWE`s power plants. He claimed that RWE should pay for the erection of a protective wall to stabilize the lake and protect his house. He calculated that RWE´s share of global CO2 emissions is 0,47 per cent and that this would be equivalent to a proportion of 17.000 Euros building costs for the wall.
The district court of Essen rejected Lliuya`s claim largely on procedural grounds, but also seized the opportunity to give an obiter dictum on the merits of the case. The court did not decide whether or not the actual danger of flooding exist, but argued that even if this would be the case, this danger of flooding may not be attributed to RWE individually, because countless emitters of greenhouse gases exist. If these gases are triggering climate change in a complex natural process, no linear causation between the source of greenhouse gases and the damage can be established.
The plaintif may apeal against that decision. A press-release of the district court (only available in German language) may be accessed at: