Saturday, July 30, 2016

World Carbon Producers Face Landmark Rights Case

An oil rig off the coast of California. (Credit: Pete Markham/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines.

In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination.”

The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.

The complaint argues that the 47 companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented."

It calls for an official investigation into the human rights implications of climate change and ocean acidification and whether the investor-owned “carbon majors” are in breach of their responsibilities.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
The full legal investigation is now expected to start in October after the 47 companies have responded.  Although all 47 will be ordered to attend public hearings, the CHR can only force those 10 with offices in the Philippines to appear.

These include Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Lafarge, Holcim, and Taiheiyo Cement Corporation.  The CHR has the power to seek the assistance of the UN to encourage any which do not attend to co-operate.

“The commission’s actions are unprecedented.  For the first time, a national human rights body is officially taking steps to address the impacts of climate change on human rights and the responsibility of private actors,” said Zelda Soriano, legal and political adviser for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, one of the groups which has brought the complaint to the CHR.

“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.  From the Netherlands to the U.S., people are using legal systems to hold their governments to account and demand climate action,” she said.
The CHR is not a court and would have no power to force companies to reduce emissions or fine them.  However, it can make recommendations to government and would add to the worldwide pressure to persuade shareholders to divest from heavy carbon emitters.

The investigation is the latest in a growing tide of climate liability cases being brought against governments and corporations.  In June, the Netherlands’ high court ruled on the world’s first climate liability suit, ordering the Dutch government to take stronger action against climate change to better protect its citizens.

Read more at World Carbon Producers Face Landmark Rights Case

No comments:

Post a Comment