Climate justice for the people, climate accountability for the polluters

Background - 1 July, 2016

In a great injustice, the people affected most by climate change are also the most vulnerable. Now it's possible to name and challenge those who have contributed more to this problem. Greenpeace is working to hold these big polluters accountable for climate change, and stop them from polluting even more. Polluters must stop threatening the rights of vulnerable communities and undermining climate science and action, and instead pave the way to a brighter future powered by clean, safe renewable energy. There are already signs we are winning. 

A great injustice is unfolding

Climate change is ramping up extreme weather — droughts, heat waves, floods and fires. Sea level rise has already worsened flooding caused by tropical cyclones and everyday high tides.

We are all affected by climate change, and have become increasingly frustrated with the fossil fuel industry slowing the inevitable transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

But the damage from climate change is felt disproportionately. The lion’s share of its negative effects falls on the most vulnerable communities, triggering more poverty, hunger and deprivation in the regions where those problems are already a crisis on their own.  

Meanwhile, those most responsible for this problem continue business-as-usual, as if there was no global climate crisis!

It is time to hold fossil fuel companies to account and prevent hazardous climate change.

Do you think it is correct that polluters never own up to their responsibility?”

We say NO.

– Peruvian Farmer who is suing German energy company, RWE, to pay for a project to protect his home from the impacts of climate change.

We know who the big polluters are

For a long time, corporations were able to create doubt over climate change and successfully seeded the mind-set that we are all equally responsible for it. This is no longer the case.

A ground-breaking study shows that just 90 entities including the worlds' largest fossil fuel companies are responsible for an estimated 65 percent of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions between 1751 and 2013.

Oil industry knew of climate change threats

Documents reveal the oil industry was warned about the threats of climate change as early as the1960s. By the 1980s, the biggest fossil fuel companies began to spend millions to sow uncertainty and doubt about climate change science. There are investigations into whether Exxon and potentially others lied to the public and investors about the threats of climate change. If the fossil fuel industry had instead taken positive steps based on its early knowledge, think how much better shape the planet and vulnerable communities would be in today.

And we're holding them to account

Just as with the successful campaign to hold tobacco companies liable for lying about the dangers of cigarettes, Greenpeace seeks to hold the big polluters to account for their contribution to and deception around the climate crisis.

These big corporate polluters have profited from fossil fuels and now must be made to stop polluting the planet with carbon emissions. Instead, the industry must contribute to making communities resilient, and help pave the way for the urgent leap to a brighter future powered by safe, clean renewable energy from the sun, wind, oceans and earth. The major oil, gas and coal companies possess the knowledge, power, and resources to support the transition to 100 percent renewable energy access for all people.  

How we are winning!

Here are just some of the victories that show the movement for climate justice is growing and unstoppable.

  • In the Netherlands, the NGO Urgenda Foundation won a climate lawsuit. This forced the Dutch state to take more stringent action on climate change.

  • In Pakistan, a farmer also won a case against the government. The Court called for a “move to climate change justice,” and ordered the government to implement the national climate policy and created a commission required to report on progress.

  • In the US, a climate case brought by youth is moving forward despite opposition from the US government and fossil fuel industry associations.

More information