A German regional court handed a small victory to a Peruvian farmer who is suing energy giant RWE over the damage that climate change is doing to his home and village in the Andes Mountains.

A lower court in Essen initially found that Saul Luciano Lliuya's lawsuit against Rheinisch-Westfalisches Elektrizitatswerk AG (RWE) was unfounded.  But the higher court in Hamm demand for damages had merit, which paves the way for the case to proceed.  Both sides have until 30 November to gather their evidence for the next phase of the case.

"It's good news for the many potential plaintiffs worldwide who will be emboldened to take action themselves," said Klaus Milke, chairman of the environmental campaign group Germanwatch which is advising Mr. Luciano.

The lawsuit says RWE should chip in the equivalent of AU$26,000 to cover the cost of protecting his hometown Huaraz from a swollen glacier lake at risk of overflowing from melting snow and ice.  The claim is based on a 2013 report stating that RWE is a major greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for 0.5 percent of global emissions "since the beginning of industrialization".

Saul Luciano Lliuya

"The risk of flooding in Huaraz is a consequence of anthropogenic global warming and therefore a consequence of the defendant's emissions," said Luciano's lawyer Roda Verheyen.  "We can prove it and we want to prove it."

RWE says there's no reason to single it out for what happens in the Andes:  And in Germany, it has modernized its coal-fired power plants to reduce CO2 emissions, as well as invested billions in renewable energy to move Germany away from fossil fuels.

The money is obviously a drop in a bucket for a company like RWE.  It's the precedent that worries executives.  A victory for Luciano would likely inspire many more "climate justice" cases around the world.