A Peruvian farmer, who sued the German electric company Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk (RWE), for its role in global climate change and damages to the Andean environment has received an international award in Germany.
Saul Luciano Lliuya, who is also a mountain guide, was awarded the “Das Glas der Vernunft” (The Crystal of Reason) which comes with a €10,000 grant, by the citizens of Kassel Tuesday, for making the electric company recognize its responsibility in climate change.
Lliuya says climate change has been severely impacted the region where he lives with his family in the Andes and in 2015 decided to sue the company with the help of Germanwatch, an NGO that addresses the effects of the “North” countries' policies and economies over the rest of the world, especially the “South,” trying to prevent climate change and develop food policies through educational and legal means.
RWE is considered one of the largest contributors to the emission of CO2 and other toxic or pollutants in Europe and is, therefore, also responsible for global climate change and its adverse effects on the Ancash mountains of western Peru, where Lliuya lives.
The case sparked an international debate over the responsibility of specific private corporations on a collective effect, as some consider the relation of events to be untraceable while others see an evident connection between the irresponsible actions of the electric company and the melting of glaciers on the other side of the world.
“We all have something for climate justice. Companies are polluting, and it's not fair that us, the ones not polluting, are paying the consequences,” Lliuya told Deutsche Welle in an interview.
RWE's spokesman Guido Steffen, however, doesn't agree with Lliuya.
“It's impossible that, in the end, there's a sole responsible in such a complex issue, to which for many years millions of factors have contributed in the whole world. There's no way to concretely demonstrate if RWE, with its emissions in this side of the planet, has caused the situation denounced by Mr. Lliuya on the other face of the planet, specifically in Peru,” Steffen said on 2016.
In that case, according to Steffen, anyone could sue anyone for the same reasons, regardless of the size of its emissions. “Anyone can produce CO2 emissions. For example, someone who travels a lot, a tourist, any industry or transportation company. Anyone could be denounced for its CO2 emissions and be sentenced for its responsibility on climate change, even if it's minimal.”
Saul Luciano Lliuya waiting for the start of the trial against RWE in the Supreme Regional Court of Hamm, November 13, 2017. Photo | EFE
Lliuya and Germanwatch have used the actions of RWE as evidence of the responsibilities big companies in the global climate change and its real effects on environments and populations all around the world. They have said RWE's emissions don't stay in Germany and aren't negligible, they spread all over and impact the ecosystems everywhere.
“I hope we do well because this is not a local issue. This can change at a world level because if we don't complain or say anything, we will die,” said Lliuya.
Lliuya and his family live in Huaraz, located under the melting Pastoruri glacier, which threatens the entire community. They have to contend with floods coming from the mountain, trying to deviate flows of water to protect Lliuya house and village and pay for these cost out of pocket.
The Supreme Regional Court of Hamm accepted Lliuya's claim in November 2017, after Essen's court rejected it, and the case is now in the collection of evidence phase, meaning a decisive step forward in "global climate justice."
"The simple fact of establishing a debate on this case writes a page in the history of law," said Roda Verheyen, Lliuya's lawyer.
The Crystal of Reason prize started in 1990 as an initiative of Kassel's citizens and includes Edward Snowden and Doctors Without Borders among its laureates.