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4 Nov 2021

European Coalition for Corporate Justice

Commentary: Missing from the COP26 agenda - corporate accountability

3 Nov 2021

COP26 comes at a critical moment for the EU. The European Commission is expected to release a draft law later this year, which may require companies to address risks of human rights abuses and environmental harm in their global value chains. 

But how meaningful will this be? As the largest trading bloc in the world, the EU has the responsibility to take action to stop business activity from causing and contributing to serious and irreversible environmental harm and loss of natural resources at home and abroad.

Countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement were asked to submit improved national targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the COP26 summit. These targets can and should also be translated into concrete legal obligations for corporations...

The EU’s forthcoming rules on due diligence must oblige companies to respect the customary duty to prevent and to adhere to the precautionary approach of international environmental law. Corporations, like states, must also have an obligation of result and be required to remedy any harms related to their climate impacts.

The future directive must include not only an obligation for corporations to respect the environment and climate through environmental due diligence, but also a civil cause of action to seek injunctive relief and redress. 

Judicial developments within climate change litigation are already moving in this direction. In May, a Dutch civil court ruled that by 2030 the oil giant Shell must reduce its CO2 global emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels. This was the first time in history that a judge has held a corporation accountable for its contribution to climate change...

The interrelationship between the climate crisis and human rights is well-established: the detrimental effects of climate change interfere with the human right to food, water, and health. 

Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council recognised that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right. In the words of UN Special Rapporteur David Boydon, this was “a historic breakthrough that has the potential to improve the life of everyone on the planet.” ...