What the Philippines' CHR findings on polluters' liability mean for loss and damage negotiations at COP25
MANILA, Philippines – The result of the landmark inquiry of the Philippines' Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on climate change proved the role and liabilities of the world's biggest carbon emitters in this global crisis.
The inquiry looked into the contributions of 47 private and state-owned companies in climate change and whether they can be held liable for its impacts on human rights.
It could also guide climate negotiators, especially from civil society, on how to move forward with the talks on loss and damage on the premise of liability and compensation.
Loss and damage is the third pillar of climate policy, with mitigation and adaptation as the other two. It addresses what mitigation and adaptation cannot do: prevention and addressing irreversible effects, respectively.
Loss and damage in the climate policy, therefore, is an acknowledgement that certain climate damages are unavoidable and unpredictable. Like the other two pillars, it needs finance.
However, in climate negotiations, including those in the ongoing Conference of Parties 25 (COP25) in Madrid, rich industrialized countries like the United States, Brazil, India, and Japan, have downplayed the need for finance. They also didn't want to talk about the divide between developed and developing countries.
Yet "poor countries are already struggling with various development issues, and climate-induced loss and damage are giving them additional burden," said Hafijul Khan, the negotiator for least developed countries.
At COP25, the mechanisms for accounting loss and damage is up for review. But there's still little progress, that a few days ago, demonstrators in the COP25 halls were driven out for calling on the rich industrialized countries to "step up and pay up."
Create a standard law on climate change
CHR commissioner Roberto Cadiz suggested, based on the inquiry's findings and limitations, that international human rights law may provide a standard law for local courts when pursuing climate change cases.
According to him, "it can eliminate problems with jurisdictions," which is a major roadblock for climate survivors to demand accountability and compensation via legal means.
This makes sense especially that the major polluters are foreign companies which have been plundering the mineral-rich lands in the Global South.
Cadiz also suggested that this legal template must be adopted by governments. This could encourage more climate survivors to file a case and, eventually, provide case studies for addressing liabilities and compensation on national contexts. Establishing successful legal cases could be the way to start putting pressure on rich polluting countries to finally make an action on loss and damage.
Warsaw International Mechanism
The existing text for loss and damage under the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) presents various views on how to provide finance to vulnerable countries recovering from extreme weather events, including slow-onset impacts such as sea level rise- from finance, technology, and capacity building.
The WIM is the 2013 international framework under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to address loss and damage due to climate disasters.
Simply put, the WIM must provide the ways on how these climate impacts are accounted for. And who must pay.
For victims of forced migration which is a result of climate-induced loss and damage, compensation could mean polluting companies welcoming them in their home countries and providing them with their right to live with dignity.
In Manila last September, climate migrants from the Global South were joined by civil society groups in their call for climate justice. They asserted that climate migration is a human rights issue – and that it's the major polluters' responsibility to pay.
This is echoed by civil society members at the COP25 by demanding for an institutionalized financial arm for compensation on loss and damage because the major polluters are liable for it.
Rich countries may continue to not acknowledge that in climate negotiations, establishing a strong legal support sounds like a good start.
But the Philippines' CHR just showed how to do that. – Rappler.com