Big Oil Faces Historic Human Rights Inquiry for ‘Complicity in Climate Change’

Written by on December 5, 2015 in Climate Change, Environment with 17 Comments

climate change

By Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams

In a landmark case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) announced Friday it will launch the first-ever investigation into dozens of fossil fuel companies for alleged human rights violations over the industry’s role in worsening climate change.

The inquiry will commence on December 10, International Human Rights Day, and target stakeholders from 50 Big Oil corporations, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Beyond Petroleum (BP), and ConocoPhillips—along with another 40 “legal entities that are responsible for the majority of global CO2 and methane emissions in the earth’s atmosphere,” said Greenpeace International, one of the organizations that filed the petition (pdf) in September calling for the CHR to assemble a task force on climate change and human rights.

“Climate change interferes with the enjoyment of our fundamental rights as human beings,” the petition states. “Hence, we demand accountability of those contributing to climate change.”
“It’s time we held to account those who are most responsible for the devastating effects of climate change.”
—Zelda Soriano, Greenpeace

The Philippines, a cluster of low-lying islands in the South Pacific, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels and extreme weather events fueled by skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions.

The commission’s move marks the first time a call for climate justice will force the fossil fuel industry to answer for its environmental devastation.

“For the longest time since they started their business, these carbon polluters have been invincible. Nobody has challenged their social license and their role in climate change,” Anna Abad, a climate justice campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told Reuters on Friday. “This is one step in a whole legal strategy of making sure those complicit in climate change are held accountable.”

The CHR’s response “signals a turning point in the struggle to avoid catastrophic climate change,” said Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo. “It opens a critical new avenue of struggle against the fossil fuel companies driving destructive climate change.”

The petitioners also include survivors of the tropical cyclones such as the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 6,300 people in the Philippines alone.

“In the era of climate change, we feel that the real value of the statistics and reports of disaster-related casualties has not been given adequate expression,” they wrote. “The real life pain and agony of losing loved ones, homes, farms—almost everything—during strong typhoons, droughts, and other weather extremes, as well as the everyday struggle to live, to be safe, and to be able to cope  with the adverse, slow onset impacts of climate change, are beyond numbers and words.”

One petitioner, Veronica “Derek” Cabe, described huddling in her attic in wet clothes alongside family members, including a two-year-old, as floodwaters rolled through Manila for 12 hours during Typhoon Ketsana in 2009.

“We saw floating people, floating animals, floating coffins. We could not do anything, we could not help them. It was like watching a horror movie and the cruel part is we could not turn it off,” Cabe said.

Also joining in the complaint are humanitarian and green groups like Amnesty International, the Center for International Environmental Law, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, among others. The investigation will solicit the cooperation of United Nations (UN) human rights experts and scientists.
“This is yet another indication that we are seeing the end of the fossil fuel era.”
—Kumai Nadoo, Greenpeace

Whether the plaintiffs win their case or receive compensation for climate damages, any legal action launched against corporate polluters helps strengthen the growing opposition to the fossil fuel industry—and that might be enough to bring lasting change, legal experts say.

“Companies fear nothing more than a lawsuit,” Gregory Regaignon, an attorney with the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, told Reuters.

Simply putting some high-profile pressure on energy corporations could be enough to drive away investors and hit those polluters “where their assets are,” Regaignon said. “That’s what they care about most, and how we’re going to reach remedies.”

Greenpeace attorney Zelda Soriano added, “This investigation is not just about how fossil fuel companies do business, but that they do business at all in the future. It’s time we held to account those who are most responsible for the devastating effects of climate change.”

While the CHR moves ahead with its investigation, more petitions are coming down the pipeline, Greenpeace said.

“This should hopefully inspire other human rights commissions around the world to take similar action,” Naidoo said. “If I were a CEO of a fossil fuel company, I would be running scared. This is yet another indication that we are seeing the end of the fossil fuel era.”

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  1.' Lynnandj Blankenship says:

    About time, when will they be held accountable for all of the pollution of our ground water with fracking chemicals? Cancer rates for folks with well and spring water sources is so high here in south central KY where fracking has been so common in the past 15 years…

  2.' Don Huffer says:

    Sue the auto industry too for making the gas guzzling suv’s.

  3.' Benjie Basat Ramel Jr. says:

    Luxury! Too much luxury! This stemmed from greed…

  4.' Rod Rivera says:

    Money and “the bottom line” will succeed as it always has.. that’s how the Tobacco companies stayed at the top.. 40 years ago people who came out and said cigarette smoke was bad were called radicals.. The EXACT same people who Phillip Morris hired to defend them are the EXACT same people big corporations have hired to create disinformation and call global warming a hoax and to confuse people into thinking that this is even a debate.. Big corporations today follow this model set by Philip Morris to genetically modify and poison our food for higher yields (max profit) and to desecrate our land with fracking (more oil = more money) Our Health Care is now even putting profit over people.. They don’t make money if you are healthy – think about that the next time a doctor recommends prescribing your child a drug because your child can’t sit still at school… that’s not a disease – it’s called being a fucking kid…

    We do not live in a world with morals or ethics anymore.. These people steal the inheritance of our future generations and smile about it..

  5.' Pamela Diez says:

    Good somebody has to wake up and do something about it,clean it up and organize.this problems.

  6.' Jennifer Siocson says:

    …i dont think about the results,i thinking about the “manipulation of results”.

  7.' Muhammad Osman says:

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  8.' Hristo Hvoynev says:

    ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’

  9.' Robin Cameron says:

    That’s a legal case that will go on for years – and when the verdict is announced, the appeals and challenges will go on for years. Great news for lawyers – but the climate will keep changing while they argue about it.

  10.' Sue Glessing McDiarmid says:

    it’s time that those who do the damage to our environment for their own profit were held financially responsible.

  11.' Christopher Witehira says:

    Fucken evil cunts dont give a fuck about life on our planet. Just money wealth and luxury with their global escape extinction plan.

  12.' Christopher Witehira says:

    And screwing whores while their wives are at home with the family, happy in ignorance

  13.' Mike Henderson says:

    So how many times will it take for the data to be proven false before you climatetards drop your false agenda and quit worshiping Gore?

  14.' Barry Flanagan says:

    Grow Hemp and save the planet!

  15.' John Roberts says:

    Somebody smells Money!!!!!!!!!!!

  16.' Fabio Barone says:

    They will use the defence of plausible deniability. Once you have the kind of money these guys have, you can do whatever you want. For example, look at the three criminals Bush, Blair, Howard, and the CIA – they have even confessed that they got it wrong about Sadam and Weapons of Mass Destruction, that it was all a lie – but did anyone get even get charged (let alone convicted) for the tens of thousands of deaths, the millions of lives that were turned up-side-down, and the trillions of dollars of destruction unleashed upon an innocent society?
    Answer: No.
    Sure it’s not fair. But that’s the reality.
    So don’t hold your breath.

  17.' Harald d'Oultremont says:

    I really hope they investigate the kerosine thats used for planes they will definitly find fluoride and other materiels that kill soil and humans !

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