Quezon City, The Philippines – Fossil fuel companies are today under the spotlight as hearings begin in the Philippines into their contribution to human rights harms resulting from climate change.

Youth, scientists, and legal experts are among those to testify in what is the world’s first national human rights investigation of its kind into the ‘Carbon Majors’ – 47 investor-owned carbon and cement producers, among them Shell, BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ENI, ExxonMobil, Glencore, OMV, Repsol, Sasol, Suncor, Total and RWE. [1]

“We can no longer ignore the impact of significant changes in global temperatures and the rising sea levels on people’s lives. We have been witness ourselves in this country to a spate of natural disasters and supertyphoons such as Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo and of course Yolanda, with grave consequences. Some of the survivors and victims of these disasters who have directly suffered from them are here with us today,” said Chair of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Jose Luis Martin “Chito” C. Gascon, at the opening of the first hearing session.

The investigation was triggered by a petition filed at the Commission in 2015 by representatives of communities across the country. These include survivors of super-typhoons such as Haiyan (Yolanda), fisherfolk from Alabat originally known for its rich fishing grounds, communities living near Bataan coal power plant situated in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines, and civil society groups, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines. [2]

The investigation has the potential to shift global understanding of corporate responsibility for climate change, bringing attention to the role of fossil fuel companies in creating the climate crisis. The petitioners aim to set the record straight by demonstrating that the coal, oil, and gas companies are the most responsible for the climate crisis and must take action to prevent further harm resulting from impacts.

“Justice must be delivered to the communities living on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Their basic rights to food, water, shelter, health, and even life are under threat from climate change,said Amalie Obusan, Philippines Country Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “It is the fossil fuel companies who hold the lion’s share of responsibility for climate change and the harms it creates, and they can and must be held accountable.”

Participating in the hearings are people from different sectors of the community, who have been impacted by climate change; as well as the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines and other local and international experts. They will testify about climate science and impacts, the link between climate change and human rights, and the responsibility of fossil fuel companies to respect human rights. [3]

“This petition is both a moral and legal plea to address climate change as one of the greatest threats to human rights of our time and an opportunity to uphold the rule of law where corporate actors that have contributed to climate change and knew about the foreseeable harms caused by climate change have a responsibility to respect human rights,” said Lisa Hamilton, Director of the Energy and Climate Program of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and one of the expert witnesses.

The petitioners are demanding that representatives of the companies attend the public hearings and present their plans for phasing out fossil fuels in order to prevent future human rights harms resulting from the impacts of climate change.

Ms. Rica Diamzon Cahilig, an Indigenous Peoples youth leader, is among those who are opening the first day of the public hearings to share how climate change has impacted her family, education, and even the cultural tradition of pagdadanso, which is on the verge of extinction. “We used to be able to go to the mountains when food is unavailable in the city. But we cannot do that now,” Cahilig shared in Filipino. [4]

More hearings are scheduled in the Philippines, the US and Europe in the coming months. The Petitioners hope that the Commission will conclude its investigation by the end of this year and issue its resolution in early 2019.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

[1] Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Notice of Inquiry Hearing, 19 February 2018

[2] Relevant documents and additional information on the investigation can be found here  

[3] In March 2018, leading experts published a Joint Summary of the Amicus Curiae Briefs submitted in support of Petitioners, Greenpeace Southeast Asia et al., presenting key findings and messages from 10 underlying amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Commission during the proceedings. The full statement and Joint Summary, including a complete list of the amici organizations and experts are available online here

The individual amicus briefs are available here

[4] “Pagdadanso” refers to traditional activities of gathering and foraging for food sources in the forests and rivers by indigenous Aeta tribes, including the Aeta Ambalas in Bataan, who used to go to the mountains for one to two weeks if food is scarce in the city, bringing with them only rice grains and salt. They get the rest of their food and sustenance directly from nature.

Photos and videos: Grace Duran-Cabus, Photo Desk, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, grace.duran@greenpeace.org, +63 949 889 1335

Contacts:

Amalie Obusan, Country Director, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines, amalie.obusan@greenpeace.org, +63 998 587 0336

JP Agcaoili, Communications Manager, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines, jp.agcaoili@greenpeace.org, +63 949 889 1334

Zelda Soriano, Legal & Political Advisor, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, zelda.soriano@greenpeace.org, +63 917 594 9424

Kristin Casper, Litigation Counsel for the global climate justice and liability project, based at Greenpeace Canada, kristin.casper@greenpeace.org, +1 (416) 889 6604

Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours), pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org