World September 22, 2015 | 11:47 am

Fossil fuel companies face landmark national human rights complaint on climate change

Manila.- Typhoonsurvivors and civil society groups in the Philippines today delivered acomplaint to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) callingfor an investigation into the responsibility of big fossil fuel companies forfuelling catastrophic climate change resulting in human rights violations.

The complaint, whichis the first of its kind in the world, is being brought forward by typhoonsurvivors, advocates and non-governmental organisations, including GreenpeaceSoutheast Asia. The group is demanding an investigation into the top 50investor-owned fossil fuel companies and their responsibility for climateimpacts that endanger people’s lives and livelihoods, as well as that of futuregenerations.

“We demand justice.Climate change has taken our homes and our loved ones. These powerfulcorporations must be called to account for the impact of their businessactivities,” said Elma Reyes from Alabat Island in Quezon, who survived SuperTyphoon Rammasun and is part of the group submitting the complaint to the CHR.

The 50 companies,including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, are asubset of the 90 legal entities that have contributed the lion’s share ofcumulative global CO2 and methane emissions in the earth’s atmosphere, asidentified by peer-reviewed research.

Organisations thathave provided advice and support to the group submitting the complaint includeAmnesty International, Avaaz, Business and Human Rights Resources Centre,Climate Justice Programme, the Center for International Environmental Law,EarthRights International, International Trade Union Confederation, and theUnion of Concerned Scientists.

“We pray that the CHRheed the demand to recommend to policymakers and legislators to develop andadopt effective accountability mechanisms that victims of climate change caneasily access,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of CaritasPhilippines and a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. “Inspired byPope Francis, the Church will support this Philippine climate change and humanrights complaint and will continue to serve as a strong ally in the strugglefor a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and spiritually rich worldthat the Pope and the broader climate movement are fighting for.”

“From the Netherlandsto the US, people are using legal systems to hold their governments to accountand demand climate action. We hope that the Commission on Human Rights of thePhilippines will take the bold step in being the first in the world to hold bigcorporate polluters accountable for their contribution to the climate crisis,”said Attorney Zelda Soriano, legal and political advisor for GreenpeaceSoutheast Asia.

The groups submittingthe complaint are calling for the investigation to be launched this year. Thisis an important building block in establishing the moral and legal ‘precedent’that big polluters can be held responsible for current and threatened humanrights infringements resulting from fossil fuel products. These companies havebenefited financially with knowledge of the harms associated with theirproducts. The groups submitting the complaint all agree that now is the timefor the big polluters to bear responsibility for preventing climate harm.

"Thoughuncertain of the outcome, I know that adding my name as a petitioner isimportant and supports a much greater cause that will ensure environmentaljustice for all Filipinos and the rest of humanity,” said Elma Reyes who startedthe online petition supporting the human rights and climate change complaint.

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