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Climate crime? 47 firms told to answer rights raps

/ 12:47 AM July 29, 2016
SMOGOVER METRO MANILA As seen from SanMateo, Rizal province, thick smog—a toxic mix of vehicle exhaust, emissions from factories and other sources of air pollution—covers vast stretches of Metro Manila and environs. RICHARD REYES

SMOG OVER METRO MANILA  As seen from San Mateo, Rizal province, thick smog—a toxic mix of vehicle exhaust, emissions from factories and other sources of air pollution—covers vast stretches of Metro Manila and environs. RICHARD REYES

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has asked 47 companies engaged in the manufacture and retail of fossil fuel products  to respond to allegations of human rights abuses by abetting climate change.

A legal petition—which covers some of the biggest energy companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Glencore, Suncor and ConocoPhillips—has triggered the first national human rights investigation concerning climate change, Greenpeace Philippines said in a statement issued on Thursday.

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Greenpeace said the CHR sent copies of the complaint to the headquarters of these companies, which Greenpeace dubbed the “world’s largest investor-owned fossil fuel and cement producers.” The order enjoined the companies to submit answers to the CHR within 45 days.

The petitioners included 18 Filipinos and 14 civil society organizations based in the Philippines, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

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At mercy of big firms

“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.

“Our only choice is to defend our rights. We want those most responsible to be held accountable. We want justice and to regain the ability to protect the little that we have left for our children,” petitioner Veronica Cabe was quoted as saying.

Climate change mitigation

In 2015, the CHR looked into whether the world’s largest carbon producers were violating or threatening to violate the human rights of Filipinos by significantly contributing to global climate change and failing to reduce emissions, despite having the capacity to do so.

The petitioners have asked the CHR, among other things, to require the companies to submit plans on the steps they would take to eliminate, remedy and prevent the devastating effects of climate change, in a country known to be one of the world’s most vulnerable to these effects.

The complaint also asks the human rights body to monitor people and communities acutely vulnerable to the impact of climate change, Greenpeace said.

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Unprecedented

“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. The courageous Filipino people are the first to put the world’s largest carbon producers on notice that they must account for their emissions,” added Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace Philippines said the CHR action was unprecedented.

“For the first time, a national human rights body is officially taking steps to address the impact of climate change on human rights and the responsibility of private actors. After the company responses are received, the petitioners anticipate hearings will commence in the Philippines in October 2016,” it said.

Greenpeace said the petitioners were calling the companies’ business plans into question and asking governments around the world to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

“This is another signal to the fossil fuel producers from people that they cannot continue business as usual. There is a growing global climate justice movement working to strengthen the capacity of people around the world to take action inside and outside the courts,” it added. Amy R. Remo

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TAGS: BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, Climate Change, Commission on Human Rights, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, fossil fuel products, Glencore, Nation, news, Royal Dutch Shell, Suncor, Total
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