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World’s Largest Carbon Producers Face Human Rights Abuse Allegations

The world’s 47 largest investor-owned fossil fuel and cement producers have found themselves accused this week of human rights abuses.

In December of 2015, we reported on an investigation being carried out by the Philippines Commission on Human Rights (CHR) into whether fossil fuel companies are to be held responsible for the impacts of climate change. The investigation came in response to a petition made by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, as well as 13 other organizations and 18 Filipino individuals — and signed by a further 100,000 signatories calling for the investigation. Specifically, the petition requested the Philippines Commission on Human Rights:

  • to officially put these companies on notice

  • to request plans from these companies on how they intend to eliminate, remedy, and prevent damages (or threatened damages) resulting from the impacts of climate change

  • to recommend to the government that it provides a human rights mechanism where victims of climate change can be monitored and assisted

The 65 page Petition (PDF), entitled “Requesting for Investigation of the Responsibility of the Carbon Majors for Human Rights Violations or Threats of Violations Resulting from the Impacts of Climate Change,” starts off dramatically by asking “Ito na lang ba ang aming kauuwian — ang magbilang, o mapabilang, sa mga biktima ng climate change?” (“Will this be our fate — to just count the victims of climate change or be counted among them?”)

This week, the world’s 47 largest investor-owned fossil fuel and cement producers were sent copies of the complaint by the CHR, which requires they respond and submit answers to the Commission within 45 days.

Among the 47 companies listed are names such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Glencore, Suncor, and ConocoPhillips.

“We’ve been affected for so long by storms, droughts … by extreme weather, now made worse by climate change,” said Veronica “Derek” Cabe, one of the petitioners from Bataan. “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.”

The Petitioners have asked the CHR to require the 47 companies in question to submit plans on the steps they intend to take to eliminate, remedy, and prevent further the devastating effects of climate change. The complaint also asks the Commission itself to monitor people and communities already vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“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,” said Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International. “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.”

Further to the complaint, a full legal investigation is expected to begin later this year after all 47 companies have responded. However, in the event that the companies are called before the Commission, only the 10 companies with headquarters in the Philippines can be made to appear.

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