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West Coast Reacts: Court win by Peruvian farmer against German coal giant inspires BC climate activists

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – Lawyers with Vancouver-based West Coast Environmental Law congratulated Peruvian farmer, Saul Luciano Lliuya, for yesterday’s court win against German coal giant, RWE. The public interest environmental law organization has been calling on British Columbia’s local governments to launch similar litigation against fossil fuel companies here in BC.

“Despite differences between the legal systems of BC and Germany, we believe Saul’s victory demonstrates that courts will recognize the role of fossil fuel companies in causing climate impacts,” said Andrew Gage, Head of West Coast’s Climate Law in our Hands program. “While not a final win, the German courts have held that it is possible to sue fossil fuel companies for their share of climate impacts.”

Gage noted that the Higher Regional Court of Hamm’s decision in the RWE case sends a message to the world’s governments, currently meeting in Bonn, Germany to negotiate further global climate action.

Lliuya’s case bears striking similarities to litigation that West Coast has proposed in BC. The claim is brought on behalf of a community for the costs of preparing for climate risks (in Lliuya’s case, for the risks of flooding due to melting glaciers above his community of Huaraz). Lliuya seeks to recover RWE’s fair share of the costs. After an initial loss in a lower court, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm on November 13, 2017 accepted this basic approach. The court will next decide whether to move on to investigating the evidence in support of Lliuya’s claim, with a further hearing expected on November 30th, 2017.

Polling commissioned by West Coast Environmental Law demonstrates that about 63% of British Columbians would strongly or somewhat support their local government bringing legal actions against fossil fuel companies to recover a share of municipal climate costs.

While no BC municipalities have yet indicated an intention to file such litigation, four municipalities (Victoria, Saanich, Colwood and Highlands) have voted to send climate accountability letters to 20 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. These letters demand that the companies pay a fair share of local climate costs.


For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage | Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law

Anjali Appadurai | Climate Communications and Engagement Specialist, West Coast Environmental Law