Some of the world’s largest energy companies could face a landmark legal case for releasing greenhouse gases, after a complaint claimed that their actions violated the human rights of millions of Filipinos.
As many as 47 carbon majors have been sent a 60-page document that accuses them of encroaching on the people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination,” by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), the Guardian reported.
The investigation was initiated by Greenpeace’s Southeast Asia chapter when it petitioned the CHR in the Philippines. Their complaint has prompted the commission to ask 47 oil, cement, coal, and mining companies — including Shell, BP (British Petroleum), Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American — to respond to the allegations within the next 45 days. The public hearings will possibly start by October.
The list is based on a 2013 research by Richard Heede, director of the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado. His calculations showed that just 90 companies had produced almost two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions since the start of the industrial revolution.
About 315 gigatons of CO2 equivalent was emitted into the atmosphere by these companies together, making up for nearly 22 percent of estimated global industry greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 and 2013, according to Heede.
Made up of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is one of the countries more vulnerable to climate change. In the past decade it has seen four of its most devastating super-cyclones and severe floods — all reportedly linked to global warming. In 2013, the country saw more than 6,000 people killed and 650,000 others displaced after Typhoon Haiyan.
“We demand justice. Climate change has taken our homes and our loved ones. These powerful corporations must be called to account for the impact of their business activities,” Guardian reported Elma Reyes, a survivor of the 2008 super typhoon Rammasun, as saying.
Although CHR is not a court and has no power to force companies to reduce emissions, it can make recommendations to government and add pressure to persuade shareholders to pull back investment from these severely polluting companies.
“This whole process is about preventing harm,” said Kristin Casper, an American lawyer based at Greenpeace’s Toronto office. “ It’s not trying to look into past. It’s about protecting people’s future,” she told the National Observer.