For the first time fossil fuel companies face national human rights complaint on climate change

Typhoon survivors and civil society groups in the Philippines today delivered a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) calling for an investigation into the responsibility of big fossil fuel companies for fuelling catastrophic climate change that is resulting in human rights violations. [1]

The complaint, which is the first of its kind in the world, is being brought forward by typhoon survivors, advocates and non-governmental organizations, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia. The group is demanding an investigation into the top 50 investor-owned fossil fuel companies and their responsibility for climate impacts that endanger people’s lives and livelihoods, as well as that of future generations.

“We demand justice. Climate change has taken our homes and our loved ones. These powerful corporations must be called to account for the impact of their business activities,” said Elma Reyes from Alabat Island in Quezon who survived Super Typhoon Rammasun, and is part of the group submitting the complaint to the CHR. [2]

The 50 companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, are a subset of the 90 legal entities that have contributed the lion’s share of cumulative global CO2 and methane emissions in the earth’s atmosphere, as identified by peer-reviewed research. [3]

Organizations that have provided advice and support to the group submitting the complaint include Amnesty International, Avaaz, Business and Human Rights Resources Centre, Climate Justice Programme, the Center for International Environmental Law, EarthRights International, International Trade Union Confederation, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We pray that the CHR heed the demand to recommend to policymakers and legislators to develop and adopt effective accountability mechanisms that victims of climate change can easily access,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines and a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. “Inspired by Pope Francis, the Church will support this Philippine climate change and human rights complaint and will continue to serve as a strong ally in the struggle for a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and spiritually rich world that the Pope and the broader climate movement are fighting for.”

“From the Netherlands to the US, people are using legal systems to hold their governments to account and demand climate action. We hope that the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines will take the bold step in being the first in the world to hold big corporate polluters accountable for their contribution to the climate crisis,” said Attorney Zelda Soriano, legal and political advisor for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The groups submitting the complaint are calling for the investigation to be launched this year. This is an important building block in establishing the moral and legal ‘precedent’ that big polluters can be held responsible for current and threatened human rights infringements resulting from fossil fuel products. These companies have benefited financially with knowledge of the harms associated with their products. The groups submitting the complaint all agree that now is the time for the big polluters to bear responsibility for preventing climate harm.

“Though uncertain of the outcome, I know that adding my name as a petitioner is important and supports a much greater cause that will ensure environmental justice for all Filipinos and the rest of humanity,” said Elma Reyes who started the online petition [4] supporting the human rights and climate change complaint.

 

[1] Link to the Human Rights and Climate Change complaint http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/ph/PageFiles/105904/Climate-Change-and-Human-Rights-Complaint.pdf

[2] List of petitioners to the Climate Change and Human Rights complaint is composed of 14 organizations, 20 individuals, and 1,288 Filipinos who expressed support for this complaint through a webpage, www.greenpeace.org.ph/climatejustice, dedicated for this purpose.

[3] Carbon Majors: Accounting for carbon and methane emissions 1854-2010, Methods & Results Report, available at http://climateaccountability.org/pdf/MRR%209.1%20Apr14R.pdf

[4] http://act.greenpeace.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1827&ea.campaign.id=39284

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