Manila, Philippines — On September 23, one year after a human rights petition was filed against big polluters, petitioners gathered to call on the companies to submit plans on how they will eliminate, remedy, and prevent human rights impacts resulting from climate change.

The Commission of Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines, who is leading the investigation, sent copies of the complaint to 47 companies, including Shell, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil, last July 27. The companies were ordered to submit their responses to the CHR within 45 days.

“It has been said that: ‘the earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.’ We have come to a point where science can pinpoint the names and addresses of the biggest culprits that have caused global warming, it is high time for them to assume their historical responsibility, because this is the basus for a just, effective, and scientific solution to climate change,” said Chuck Baclagon of 350.org. 350.org is one of the petitioners.

The Philippines is one of the most highly impacted countries due to climate change. The country experiences an average of 20 typhoons in a year. Haiyan, the strongest storm recorded in history to make landfall, lashed through some of its islands in 2013, killing at least 7,000 people in its path.

A group of women farmers from Alabat, Quezon, also shared their experiences of how climate change has affected their lives and livelihoods: the extreme heat in the summer season has made it difficult to produce quality calamansi (Philippine lime), and they end up rejected by their clients. On the other hand, too much rain in the typhoon season has also made it difficult to harvest, since most end up uprooted or falling to the ground.

In the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, the Philippines was one of the countries who lobbied to ensure human rights was included inside the Paris Agreement.

“Climate change is creating human rights violations. A global climate regime without human rights in the center does not make sense,” said Antonio La Vina, former Philippine negotiator.

 

Fossil fuel companies liable?

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Fossil fuel and cement companies have contributed largely to carbon emissions

 

Fossil fuel companies have contributed largely to global carbon emissions since the industrial revolution. According to researcher Richard Heede, “two-thirds of carbon dioxide emitted since the 1750s can be traced to the 90 largest fossil fuel and cement producers, most of which still operate.”

According to the research by Heede, “63% of the carbon dioxide and methane emitted between 1751 to 2010 come from only 90 entities, thirty-one are state-owned companies such as Saudi Aramco and Statoil, and nine are government-run industries in countries such as China, Poland, and the former Soviet Union.”

In addition, a controversy has surrounded fossil fuel companies like Exxon Mobil whose documents have shown that they have known about climate change and its impacts almost 40 years ago, but decided to keep the knowledge and instead funded climate deniers.

 

“The impacts of climate change do not recognize national borders or the limits of time. Emissions from the fossil fuel products manufactured, marketed, and sold by these companies from the start of the industrial revolution to the present day will affect generations to come. We are asking people to stand strong in solidarity with those who are demanding climate justice. This is another signal to the fossil fuel producers that they cannot continue business as usual,” said Anna Abad, Greenpeace Climate Justice campaigner.

The human rights petition filed in the Philippines is said to be the first of its kind. Fossil fuel companies are expected to respond to the complaint by September 30, 2016.

About Renee Juliene Karunungan

Renee, from the Philippines, is currently Climate Tracker's Outreach Manager. She was a Climate Tracker fellow and was named by The Guardian as one of the "Young Climate Campaigners to Watch Before the UN Paris Summit" in 2015.