Phillipines Commission says companies can be held responsible for climate-related harms

By agency reporter
December 15, 2019

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines, has announced that the world’s biggest polluting companies can be held responsible for human rights violations and threats arising from climate impacts.

This is the first time that a human rights body has stated that fossil fuel companies can be found legally and morally liable for harms linked to climate change.

Yeb Saño, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director, said: “We applaud Monday’s statement from the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. This is a historic moment for people and the planet, and a landmark victory for climate justice. This marks the beginning of the end to the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold over our political systems. 

“For the first time ever, a human rights body said that big polluting companies can be held responsible for human rights harms resulting from the climate crisis. A growing number of climate cases are now being heard or filed across the world. With the conclusion of this investigation, we believe many more communities will take a stand against fossil fuel companies that are putting profit before people and blocking climate progress at the negotiating table.” 

In its groundbreaking investigation, the CHR announced that the 47 investor-owned corporations, including Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Repsol, Sasol, and Total, could be found legally and morally liable for human rights harms to Filipinos resulting from climate change. The CHR also found the relevant criminal intent may exist to hold companies accountable under civil and criminal laws, in light of certain circumstances involving obstruction, willful obfuscation, and climate denial.

The CHR has concluded that people affected by climate change, whose human rights have been dramatically harmed, must have access to remedies and to justice. This means, big polluters and other corporations have a responsibility to protect human rights and take urgent meaningful actions, as we face the climate emergency.

In 2015, human rights and environmental groups, as well as concerned citizens and individuals from climate-impacted communities from the Philippines, filed a petition. The petition called for an investigation into the world’s biggest investor-owned fossil fuel and cement companies for significantly contributing to the cumulative emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases which are fueling climate impacts such as extreme weather events and sea-level rise and causing ocean acidification. The national inquiry has since become the largest repository of evidence linking the fossil fuel industry to human rights harms caused by climate impacts.

The petitioners are calling this is a historic win for Filipino communities who are considered among the most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. This also marks a victory for the global movement for climate justice, as it will likely be a precedent for further legal actions demanding fossil fuel companies to put people’s rights over profit.  

CHR’s timely announcement came just days after the release of the 15th edition of the Global Climate Risk Index, which showed there have been 495,000 fatalities directly linked to 12,000 extreme weather events worldwide in the past 20 years.

* More information on the Climate Change and Human Rights Petition here

* Greenpeace International https://www.greenpeace.org/international/

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