CHR eyes conclusion of case against fossil fuel companies

Representatives from communities at the frontlines of the climate crisis, together with civil society groups, called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to stand with Filipino communities in holding fossil fuel companies accountable for human rights harms due to climate impacts on Wednesday. The calls came after the CHR announced that it is preparing to release at the end of August its resolution on the world’s first investigation on climate-related human rights violations of fossil fuel companies.

The impending resolution is the outcome of an almost five-year-old petition filed by Filipino civil society organizations and individuals, seeking responsibility from the “carbon majors”—47 fossil fuel companies, including Shell, Chevron, Exxon, Total, and BP—for their contribution to the climate crisis, which results in human rights violations, such as threatened lives and livelihoods, and disrupts access to basic needs.Greenpeace Philippines hopes that the resolution could establish new legal precedents in global climate litigation.

In an online forum organized by Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, Archdiocese of Manila (Ministry of Ecology), and the CHR, Commissioner Roberto Cadiz said that the CHR is ensuring that the resolution is undergoing careful study before its release.

“I want to assure you that the reason for the delay, if you want to call it that, is because we are being very careful, not only in coming out with our findings, but in communicating what exactly these findings are all about,” Cadiz said. “We do not want the wrong spin being made on our findings because we do recognize the importance of this resolution in terms of creating a landmark decision, which other courts and human rights institutions in and outside the country can rely on.”

During the forum, Cadiz said that the initial findings show that fossil fuel companies could be found legally liable for blocking efforts to transition to clean energy. This was first announced at the sidelines of the COP25 UN climate talks in Madrid last December [2], where Cadiz said criminal intent may exist to hold companies accountable in light of certain circumstances involving obstruction, willful obfuscation and climate denial.

“There are acts engaged by the [respondents] designed to derail or delay global transition towards clean renewable energy, and this may be the basis for legal liability,” Cadiz said, noting that companies have the moral responsibility to invest in renewable energy and conduct environmental impact assessments, climate change assessments, and to reveal these to regulatory agencies and the government.

Strong, groundbreaking recommendations sought

Reacting to Cadiz’s announcement, Greenpeace Climate Justice Campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin said petitioners await the release of CHR’s findings as it could also strengthen calls to ensure a green and just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We welcome this development and commend the CHR for its continuing commitment and positively concluding the case with the issuance of its final report. Filipino communities are awaiting the resolution especially during this time when the COVID crisis is amplifying the vulnerabilities they have faced in the past and continue to face due to the climate crisis,” Llorin said.

“We seek no less than a groundbreaking decision that will give communities and people all over the world a strong rallying point to attain a better normal without fossil fuels, to demand ambitious climate action from governments, including regulations for the immediate and managed phaseout of fossil fuels, and to compel carbon majors to abandon their destructive business models involving the continuous production of fossil fuels.”

Veronica Cabe, coordinator for Nuclear-Free Bataan Movement and one of the petitioners, said: “Our hope is that the CHR resolution will not just tell our stories, but will also encourage actions. We hope the decision will not just tackle moral responsibility. We want to see findings on legal liability and responsibility of carbon majors to stop them from continuing to violate not just the rights of people from coal-impacted communities, but the whole planet.”

Haiyan survivor and youth climate activist Marinel Ubaldo said: “The result of the petition will be the basis of future actions, especially among the youth. This is just the beginning. We have a long way to go and we should not stop. Ang laki ng magiging parte ng kabataan sa pagsusulong ng hustisyang pang-klima because it is our generation that will be affected in the near future. Kami ang makakaramdam ng climate impacts.”

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