Delayed human rights resolution is prolonged climate injustice — petitioners

Protesters march the street
Philstar.com

Delayed human rights resolution is prolonged climate injustice — petitioners

Petitioners asked the Philippine Commission of Human Rights to release a long-awaited resolution on the inquiry into the responsibility of fossil fuel companies and cement makers in producing greenhouse gases that cause climate change, saying every single day of delay inflicts further injustice. 

In 2015, civil society organizations and typhoon survivors filed a petition before the commission to investigate the responsibility of “carbon majors” for human rights impacts aggravated by climate change. These include Shell, Chevron, Exxon, BP and Total.

The case was said to be the first of its kind in the world. 

"It’s really devastating that up until today, we’re still waiting for a resolution from the CHR that it has promised us," climate activist Marinel Ubaldo said Monday on the sidelines of COP26. 

Petitioners had expected the release of the resolution on the eighth anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on November 8, which coincides with the pivotal United Nations climate summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow, a city known for its industrial past. 

The inquiry took place from 2015 to 2018, with public hearings conducted in Manila, New York and London. Several survivors, like Ubaldo, testified on how the impacts of climate change have upended their lives, livelihood and communities. 

In 2019, the CHR said on the sidelines of COP25 UN climate talks in Madrid that fossil fuel companies could be found legally liable for human rights violations emerging from practices that aggravate climate change. But the written resolution has yet to be made public. 

Precedent

The report of the CHR is seen as another precedent that could give rise to climate justice litigation and policymaking needed to keep the global temperature rise under control. 

"The much-awaited resolution on the case from the CHR hopes to provide precedence and legal basis for the other cases around the world to stand on and to inspire new evidence-based litigation. It is as much for Filipinos as it is for all citizens of the world," Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Saño told Philstar.com. 

The CHR resolution, if it finds oil and cement firms accountable for human rights violations due to climate impacts, will not provide sanctions but recommendations, environmental lawyer Tony La Viña said.

According to Ubaldo, the petitioners want the carbon majors to acknowledge that "they are profiting from their suffering." 

"They should be responsible and they should change their business practices," she said. 

In May, a district court in The Hague, Netherlands declared that Shell is "contributing to the dire consequences of climate change for the population" and must reduce by 45% its carbon emissions by 2030. 

"People are working on changing the system. So when courts move, it signals that change is possible. That move can be decisive enough for a lot more change to follow," Saño said. 

"In this sense, our aim is to call on courts to not just be courts of law, but to become courts of justice," he added. 

Delayed justice

Ubaldo and Saño said further delays on the release of the report will heighten the vulnerability of communities. 

Delays also mean further injustice. 

"Another delay would cause another devastation for our community, another injustice in our community. Up until now, we’re not still even [close to attaining] the justice that we deserve," Ubaldo said. 

The CHR earlier told Philstar.com that it is committed to releasing a report that is "fair, accurate, complete, and nuanced." 

"Six years—that’s quite long in the timeline of justice, if we think about how the climate emergency is overtaking our lives. Six years is also quite long, even in the context of how institutions should respond to legal actions like the one we filed six years ago," Saño said. 


This story was originally published in Philstar.com on November 9, 2021. It was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

Banner image: Protesters march the streets, holding a banner reading, "Hold the Big Polluters Accountable" on September 22, 2015.

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