MANILA, Philippines – In an unprecedented move, the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has asked 47 of the world’s largest investor-owned fossil fuel and cement producers to respond to allegations their greenhouse gas emissions violated human rights of Filipinos.
The CHR on Wednesday, July 27, sent the companies an official order giving them 45 days to answer a complaint filed by disaster survivors, community organizations, and Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The companies include Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Glencore, Suncor, and ConocoPhillips.
Petitioners refer to the 47 companies as Carbon Majors – the largest multinational and state-owned producers of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and cement.
In a statement Wednesday, Greenpeace said the CHR in 2015 launched a probe into whether the world’s largest carbon producers “are violating or threatening to violate the human rights of all Filipinos” by failing to reduce their emissions “despite having the capacity to do so” and significantly contributing to global climate change.
Petitioners originally filed the complaint in 2015, asking the CHR to request the investor-owned Carbon Majors to submit their “plans on how such violations or threats of violations resulting from the impacts of climate change will be eliminated, remedied, or prevented in the future.”
They asked the CHR to monitor people and communities “acutely vulnerable” to climate change.
They also want the commission to recommend to governments, including the Philippines, to “enhance, strengthen, or explore new ways to fulfill the international duty of cooperation to ensure the Carbon Majors take steps to address the human rights implications of climate change.”
Greenpeace described the CHR’s actions as 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,” the group said in the statement.
Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, hailed the “courageous Filipino people” as the first to hold accountable the world’s largest carbon producers for their emissions.
“Ultimately, those who have profited most from pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere must bear the burden of preventing the havoc already being wreaked by climate change. This is the first step in that process,” she said.
Another petitioner – Veronica “Derek” Cabe from Bataan – said they want big corporations that are most responsible to be held accountable.
“We’ve been affected for so long by storms, droughts…by extreme weather, now made worse by climate change. We just want to live a decent and peaceful life, without fear and being at the mercy of big corporations that only care for their profits,” she said.
“Our only choice is to defend our rights…. We want justice and to regain the ability to protect the little that we have left for our children.”
Greenpeace said communities in Bataan fight against coal storage facilities as well as proposals for a new coal-fired power plant. In fact, the group pointed out that one of the community leaders advocating against coal was shot dead just last July 1.
Petitioners expect hearings on the complaint to begin by October 2016.
The Philippines is among the “extremely” vulnerable countries to climate change, ranking 13th in the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index.
While it has pledged to cut by 70% its carbon emissions by 2030, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he “will not honor” international agreements binding the Philippines to limit its carbon emissions.
He, however, vowed to address global warming as his government’s top priority “but upon a fair and equitable equation” that “must not stymie” the country’s industrialization. – Jee Y. Geronimo / Rappler.com