World December 8, 2016 | 9:12 am

First national human rights investigation into climate change impacts proceeds despite opposition from fossil fuel companies

Manila, 8 December 2016 – The Commission onHuman Rights of the Philippines (CHR) today initiated the next steps in theworld’s first-ever national investigation into human rights harms resultingfrom climate change, despite apparent opposition from some fossil fuelcompanies.

A legal petition submitted by 18 individualsand 14 organisations, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines),(collectively known as the “petitioners”) triggered the national inquiry. Thepetition implicates 47 investor-owned carbon producers including Chevron,ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Suncor, and ConocoPhillips.

The CHR announced that it will start holdingpublic hearings from April 2017, which will be webcast due to the globalsignificance and relevance for other countries. Commissioner Cadiz, who isleading the national inquiry, acknowledged that some 20 companies haveresponded to the Petition. He also mentioned that independent expertsubmissions have been received by the Commission. The Petitioners will besubmitting a consolidated reply on February 14, 2017.

Petitioners welcomed the CHR’s announcementas indicative of its continued commitment to proceed with the unprecedentedinvestigation in a transparent and inclusive way despite surmountablechallenges presented by some of the corporate respondents. The action paves theway toward finding and documenting facts, educating the community, fosteringdialogue, allowing for the exchange of information, and enabling mutual understandingamong all stakeholders.

“As petitioners, we will continue to advocatefor our demands, including an authoritative finding by the CHR that fossil fuelcompanies must respect human rights and outline steps that would shift theirexisting business practices away from further contributions to climate changeand prevent human rights impacts” said Rose Trajano, Secretary General of the PhilippineAlliance of Human Rights Advocates, one of the petitioning organisations.

In July, the CHR requested oil, coal, miningand cement companies to comment on or answer the human rights allegations madein the petition. The independent non-profit Business & Human RightsResource Centre invited the companies to share their responses. Only 11companies volunteered their positions, with some challenging the investigation.

“As long as companies and governments fail toact on climate change, every day is human rights day. Today, we got much closerto our aspiration of holding those most responsible for the climate crisisaccountable, in order to prevent further harm,” said Yeb Sano, ExecutiveDirector of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and also one of the Petitioners

“Our call has been heeded. The CHR has shownits resolve to pursue this inquiry, and it gives us great hope and inspiration.The journey is still a long way to go, but the wheels of justice are turningforward. The reality of climate change and how it affects human rights has beenput on the spotlight, and ultimately, when people stand together and rise aboveadversity, justice will prevail.”

The national inquiry is one of the manypeople-powered legal actions related to climate change initiated around theglobe, from Indigenous Peoples in Canada, grandmothers in Switzerland, farmersfrom Peru and Pakistan, to youth in the United States and Norway, and Dutch andBelgian citizens. In each of these cases, people are pushing back using the powerof the law, because governments and fossil fuel companies are failing toprotect and respect human rights.

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