The Philippines’ Human Rights Commission’s inquiry published on May 6, 2022, finds that large oil, coal, mining, and cement companies are liable for causing global warming.
The Greenpeace article, “The Climate Change & Human Rights Inquiry Archive”, said that the Philippines’ inquiry is the world’s first investigation into corporate responsibility for the climate crisis.
The report mentioned that giant fossil fuel companies (Carbon Majors) have engaged in “willful obfuscation” of climate science, obstructed efforts toward a clean energy transition and delayed meaningful climate action (Schonhardt & Clark, 2022).
Schonhardt & Clark (2022) writes further:
- It named almost 50 corporations in the petition, including B.P., Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Glencore, Shell PLC, Suncor, Total, RWE, and BHP Billiton. Experts believe that the inquiry will boost lawsuits focusing on climate change as a human rights issue.
- In 2015, typhoon Haiyan survivors and civil society groups delivered a complaint to the Commissions of Human Rights of the Philippines. They called for an investigation into the responsibilities of big fossil fuels for causing climate change resulting in human rights violations.
- The group demands the investigation of the top 50 investor-owned fossil-fuel corporations and their accountability for the climate change impacts that endanger the lives and livelihoods of Filipinos and deprive them of access to fundamental human rights and dignity.
- The Philippines Human Rights Commission report covers seven years of work, a series of fact-finding missions across the Philippines and dozen public hearings in Manila, New York City and London to get the impleaded parties, the so-called ‘carbon majors’ in these cities to participate.
- It heard from 65 eyewitnesses, some of whom spoke about how climate-fueled storms had destroyed livelihoods or damaged cultural traditions. It also heard from experts who outlined the effect greenhouse gases have on the atmosphere, detailed how climate change reduces fish catches and agricultural yields, and explored the carbon emissions of individual corporations and their climate change communications. The Commission also considered reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other U.N. bodies.
- “The result is a 160-page report that details the ways in which climate-fueled weather events deprive people of basic access to food, water, shelter and even life. Many of the impacts stem from severe storms like Typhoon Haiyan, which swept across a series of low-lying islands in the Philippines in 2013, killing roughly 6,300 people and displacing millions.”
- Even though the United States courts may not give much credence to the report’s findings, especially at a time when officials are pushing for more oil drilling to make up for the fossil fuel shortage caused by the war in Ukraine, nor it will give the report deference partly “because the U.S. judiciary has been less receptive to arguments based on human rights that are included in many other countries’ constitutions.
- But even if U.S. courts ignore the findings, the analysis is still salient to the rest of the world, said Carroll Muffett, head of the non-profit Center for International Environmental Law, which provided the Commission with an amicus brief.
- The article says that the report helps create awareness and essentially says that any state in the world has the authority to prosecute conduct that leads to human rights violations and should serve as a wake-up all to fossil fuel companies.
- It also contributes to the rise of climate change lawsuits globally, particularly those linked to human rights violations.
The article says that more than 100 rights-based climate cases have been filed over the past two decades, with the trend accelerating in the last five years, with 29 cases alone in 2020.
Although most of these cases have been bought against governments, the historic case in the Netherlands that ruled against Royal Dutch Shell PLC to reduce its emissions extended this climate change responsibility to corporations.
According to the article, the report “calls on governments to discourage dependence on fossil fuels, establish legal mechanisms for victims of human rights harms caused by businesses, compensate victims of climate change, and guarantee equality to respond to global warming. It says carbon-intensive companies should conduct human rights and climate change impact assessments, cease further exploration, and desist from activities that undermine climate science” (Schonhardt & Clark, 2022).
It also encourages “all courts to embrace their power to influence and inspire government action” but warns against overreach that chills legislative action, noting that “even when courts do not rule in favor of the claimants, they still contribute to meaningful climate response” (Schonhardt & Clark, 2022).
Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, hopes the inquiry will inspire more legal actions against the world’s biggest polluters and opens the door to further climate litigation (Schonhardt & Clark, 2022).
“This case should send shudders and shock waves into the boardrooms of fossil fuel and cement companies which are [brought in] as respondents to this case. More climate litigation will be coming their way”, he said.
Click the link to read the entire report:
For further reading on the Commission’s Inquiry, click the links in the “Source” section below.
The Climate Change & Human Rights Inquiry Archive. (2022). Greenpeace. Retrieved from https://www.greenpeace.org/philippines/the-climate-change-human-rights-inquiry-archive/
Schonhardt, L. & Clark, L. (2022, May 16). How a Philippine inquiry could shape global climate litigation. ClimateWire. Retrieved from https://www.eenews.net/articles/how-a-philippine-inquiry-could-shape-global-climate-litigation/
Farand, C. (2022, May 10). Philippines inquiry finds polluters liable for rights violations, urging litigation. Climate Home News. Retrieved from https://www.climatechangenews.com/2022/05/10/philippines-inquiry-finds-polluters-liable-for-rights-violations-urging-litigation.
National Inquiry on Climate Change Report, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines 2022. Retrieved from https://chr.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/CHRP-NICC-Report-2022.pdf
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