The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines has sent a petition and a legal order to the corporate offices of 47 “carbon majors” demanding they respond to accusations of human rights violation attributed to their climate change-causing actions. The corporations were chosen based on a report that quantified emissions from the world’s largest fossil fuel and cement producers.
The Philippines’ 7,000+ islands are especially vulnerable to sea level rise, heat waves, storm surges and other climatic shocks and pressures. In 2013, typhoon Haiyan (A.K.A. Yolanda) killed and displaced over 6,000 and 650,000 people respectively.
The CHR order marks the first time a government agency has promoted legal claims against a corporation for human rights impacts associated with greenhouse gas emissions. The companies listed include British Petroleum, ExxonMobile, Chevron, Shell and other oil and industrial polluters.
“This is a big, bold step for the Philippines as it is at the forefront of climate impacts. But this courageous undertaking can only succeed with the unifying support of government agencies, communities, civil society organizations and other human rights institutions from all over the globe,” rallied Anna Abad, Climate Justice Campaigner at Greenpeace. Greenpeace is among 12 organizations to sign the petition in May 2015.
As the Guardian points out, the CHR doesn’t have the legal authority to press charges; however, it does have the agency to interrogate corporations on human rights violations.
The CHR gave corporations 45 days to respond to the documents and intends to begin legal investigations in October 2016, although only 10 of the 47 corporations accused are required to appear because they maintain offices in the Philippines. Official legal conviction falls in the hands of the Filipino judicial system.
Ironically, earlier this month the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines would not ratify the Paris Climate Agreement; however, that doesn’t mean he is opposed to receiving compensation from big corporations. This case follows a global movement of recently filed citizen lawsuits demanding climate justice and right action.
If the CHR wins this case it could help close the gap between the money needed – the UN estimates up to $500 billion per year by 2050 – for developing nations that require but are unable to pay for climate adaptation.
“Climate Justice is not the Philippines’ fight alone, the outcomes of this petition may mean a better life for countless souls, but we all have to do this together,” said Abad.