A German court has advanced a Peruvian farmer’s claim against a giant energy corporation for threatening his faraway community through its contribution to global warming. The decision is the latest to inch closer to holding fossil companies to account for the costs of a destabilized climate.
An appeal court in Hamm agreed that Saúl Luciano Lliuya’s demand for damages from German electrical utility RWE was “admissible,” the Guardian reports, allowing the case to proceed.
Luciano wants RWE to help his hometown of Huaraz protect itself against potential flooding from “a swollen glacier lake at risk of overflowing from melting snow and ice.” The flood defences would cost €17,000. Luciano also wants RWE to compensate him for the €6,384 he says he has already spent himself to protect the community.
RWE earned a profit of €3.3 billion in 2010, the last year reported in Wikipedia.
“Luciano bases his claims on a 2013 climate study which found that RWE was responsible for 0.5% of global emissions ‘since the beginning of industrialization,’” The Guardian notes.
The company scorned the ruling as “unjustified,” insisting that no one company should be held liable for any specific consequence of climate change. But the decision is the latest in a growing body of jurisprudence to disagree, instead recognizing the potential legitimacy of such claims.
Several American and Canadian communities have initiated a range of similar demands against energy companies, and researchers are working to develop more credible techniques for attributing damage from climate change to individual emitters.
In the United States, several groups representing young people are pursuing court petitions based on generational equity, seeking to force governments there to act more assertively to preserve their future climate.
Against that backdrop, the German court’s ruling “is good news for the many potential plaintiffs worldwide who will be emboldened to take action themselves,” said Klaus Milke, chair of the environmental advocacy group Germanwatch, which is advising Luciano.