Latest news & media coverage

Below is a compilation of the latest news and media coverage of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights' investigation of 47 fossil fuel companies' contribution to climate & human rights impacts.

(Dec 2016 press conference by Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines)

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1 November 2018

Commentary: Philippines Human Rights Commission's inquiry "milestone" in climate change litigation; next hearings in London (6-7 Nov)

Author: Annalisa Savaresi, Univ. of Stirling & Joana Setzer, London School of Economics

On 6 to 8 November 2018, LSE will be hosting the UK hearings of a path-breaking inquiry seeking to attribute the impacts of climate change to the world’s largest fossil fuel and cement producers.The inquiry was initiated in 2015 with a petition (PDF) by a group of Filipino citizens and civil society organisations, after a series of particularly violent typhoons hit the Philippines, causing widespread loss of life and damage to property and livelihoods...Some of the Carbon Majors challenged the Commission’s authority to hear the petition...During 2018, experts from around the world have submitted briefs in support of the petitioners and a series of public hearings have already taken place. While the Carbon Majors have not so far taken part in the hearings, the Commission has heard from victims of typhoons and a series of expert witnesses on climate change and human rights. Overseas sessions, in New York and London, have been scheduled with the aim of bringing the investigation closer to the Carbon Majors’ headquarters and to spread awareness about the process. The Commission’s hope is to help ‘establish processes for hearing human rights victims especially with regard to trans-boundary harm, clarify standards for corporate reporting and help identify basic rights and duties relative to climate change’...The outcome of the Carbon Majors inquiry...resonates well beyond the Philippines and may mark a milestone in the history of climate change litigation worldwide.

You can follow the hearings live here. To find out how to attend in person, please contact [email protected] by Friday 2 November, indicating if you would like to attend on 6 or 7 November, and a preference for the morning or the afternoon session.

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26 March 2018

Experts assert that Philippines Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction, duty to act & evidentiary basis to investigate carbon majors' role in climate crisis

Author: Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

"Experts: Human rights body should investigate carbon majors' role in climate crisis," 26 March 2018

Today, the Philippine Human Rights Commission holds the first public hearing in its landmark inquiry into the responsibility of 47 investor-owned fossil fuel companies for human rights violations resulting from the impacts of climate change. A group of scientific, human rights, and legal experts from around the world has submitted a Joint Summary of the Amicus Curiae Briefs in support of the Commission’s inquiry... A joint statement accompanying the briefing emphasizes the extensive body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence demonstrating that “climate change is causing severe environmental, economic, and social impacts at current levels of planetary warming.”

... These findings are relevant to the Commission’s inquiry into whether the respondent companies’ contributions to climate change violated Filipinos’ human rights to life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, self-determination, and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The hearing comes as many of these companies face inquiries and litigation in a growing number of jurisdictions beyond the Philippines, including Germany and the United States. The amici emphasized the vital need for the Commission’s inquiry in the face of mounting human impacts from climate change. “Given these immense human rights impacts,” the amici note, “it is equally important that people have access to justice.”...“Though the present inquiry is not judicial in nature, the Commission’s findings and recommendations can play a vital role in bringing the truth to light, laying the foundations for accountability, and respecting, protecting, and promoting human rights in the Philippines and beyond.”

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26 March 2018

Experts submit Joint Summary of Amicus Curiae Briefs to Philippines Human Rights Commission in support of climate change inquiry

Author: CIEL, ClientEarth, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, Maastricht Principles Drafting Group, Our Children's Trust, Plan B, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions & the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Dr. James Hansen & Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth

"Joint Summary of the Amicus Curiae Briefs", 26 March 2018

On May 9, 2016, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement along with other individuals and non-governmental organizations in the Philippines filed a petition with the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines requesting an investigation of the responsibility of the Carbon Majors for human rights violations or threats of violations resulting from the impacts of climate change. The legal scholars, experts, and human rights practitioners listed hereunder submitted amicus curiae briefs in support of the Petitioners in this critical and globally significant proceeding.

...Key findings [include]:

  • The Commission’s mandate to investigate the claims raised in the Petition is wellfounded, both in national law as well as in international law practice...
  • States’ human rights obligations demand effective investigations into the human rights violations alleged by the Petitioners...
  • The harmful effects of climate change pose an enormous threat to human rights in the Philippines and abroad... [including] rights to life, health, clean water and sanitation, food, adequate housing, self-determination and development, and equality and non-discrimination...
  • The Carbon Majors have long known that the production and use of their products contribute substantially to climate change, which continues to have significant impacts and adverse consequences for people... [and] knowingly advanced or promoted deliberately misleading information.

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26 March 2018

Joint Statement to Philippines Commission on Human Rights

Author: CIEL, ClientEarth, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, Maastricht Principles Drafting Group, Our Children's Trust, Plan B, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions & the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Dr. James Hansen & Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth

The undersigned organizations and individuals are honored to share with the Commission on Human Rights the attached Joint Summary of the Amicus Curiae Briefs submitted in support of Petitioners, Greenpeace Southeast Asia et al. Through this submission, the undersigned amici hope to facilitate the Commission’s review of the evidence and analysis presented by the amici in their respective briefs and to aid the Commission’s path-breaking inquiry into the responsibility of the Carbon Majors companies for human rights violations or threats of violations resulting from the impacts of climate change.

... The amici are united in their common concern at the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, the impacts of which are now felt on a daily basis throughout the Philippines and around the world. As an extensive body of peer-reviewed science demonstrates, climate change is causing severe environmental, economic, and social impacts at current levels of planetary warming, and these impacts only will intensify with any additional warming... Given these immense human rights impacts, it is equally important that people have access to justice... [and] [t]his groundbreaking proceeding before the Commission presents one such critically important avenue. Though the present inquiry is not judicial in nature, the Commission’s findings and recommendations can play a vital role in bringing the truth to light, laying the foundations for accountability, and respecting, protecting, and promoting human rights in the Philippines and beyond.

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23 March 2018

Can Philippines storm survivors hold companies to account for climate damage?

Author: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Veronica Cabe still remembers every minute of the more than 12 hours she and her family spent huddled on the roof of their two-storey home in Manila in 2009, as floodwaters swept past, carrying dead bodies, animal carcasses and coffins... In 2015, she became a petitioner in a landmark complaint - soon to be examined by a national inquiry - which accuses global oil, mining and cement companies of human rights violations by playing a role in driving climate change... The Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent body set up by the government, agreed in 2015 to conduct an inquiry, and will hold its first public hearings next week in Manila, followed by additional hearings in London and New York... Oil giants Chevron and BP, and miner Rio Tinto are among the so-called “carbon majors” cited in the petition. The three companies did not respond to emails seeking comment.

The inquiry is the first time a government agency has accepted, and acted on, a request for investigation of the environmental responsibility of companies that sell or are heavy users of fossil fuels, according to Zelda Soriano, an attorney with Greenpeace Southeast Asia... The commission can only make recommendations to Philippine legislators and the business world, and has no enforcement powers. But Soriano said the inquiry would set “a precedent”, and the commission’s resolution and proposed measures would add weight “to every existing and future climate-change litigation case in any part of the world, no matter the outcome”. The Philippines complaint complements a global upsurge in legal challenges seeking redress for climate-change impacts... The climate-change hearings in the Philippines come amid rising instances of violence against activists trying to protect the country’s environment. The Philippines recorded the highest number of such attacks in Asia last year.

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23 February 2018

Philippines: Greenpeace activists unfurl banner at Shell refinery as reminder to attend hearings on the responsibility of "carbon majors" for climate-related human rights harms

Author: Tina Ganzon Ozaeta, The Manila Times

"Greenpeace activists invade Shell's wharf," 23 February 2018

Activists from Greenpeace Southeast Asia–Philippines climbed the jetty at Shell’s refinery in Tabangao, Batangas... and unfurled a banner reading “People and Planet not Profit,” as a... reminder to the oil company to attend hearings on the responsibility of big fossil fuel firms for climate-related human rights harms. In a letter they delivered to the firm’s management the activists demanded that Shell to own up to its responsibility for contributions to the climate crisis... [A]ll parties were given notice on the public hearing scheduled March 27 and 28.

... Shell’s Media Manager Cesar Abaricia confirmed that Greenpeace representatives visited the Shell Makati office and its other members had illegally occupied Jetty 2 of their Tabangao Refinery in Batangas. He, however, said the demonstrators left both premises without incident. “Shell fully acknowledges the right of Greenpeace and others to express their point of view. We only ask that they do so with their safety and the safety of others, including our staff, our partners’ personnel and customers, in mind,” Abaricia added.

... The investigation was triggered by a petition filed before the commission in 2015 by representatives of communities across the Philippines, one of the countries most at risk from the impacts of climate change. The group includes fisherfolk from Alabat, communities living in the shadow of the Bataan coal power plant, survivors of super-typhoons such as Yolanda, and civil society groups, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines. [also refers to BHP Billiton, BP, ConocoPhillips, ENI, ExxonMobil, Glencore, OMV, Repsol, RWE, Sasol, Suncor & Total]

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13 February 2018

Commentary: Climate change and people power

Author: Desiree Llanos-Dee, Inquirer (The Philippines)

Climate change affects everyone on the planet, yet those least responsible bear the brunt of the consequences... [But] people are finding various ways, including legal means, to demand that corporations be held to account for fueling the climate crisis, and that governments fulfill their duty to protect the lives and livelihoods of citizens. The movement is strong and diverse, and includes groups of senior women in Switzerland; youth groups in the United States, Norway, Portugal and Colombia; fishing, farming and coastal communities in the Philippines; a citizen group in the Netherlands; and individuals from Peru, New Zealand and Pakistan.

... The eyes of the world should be on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on March 26-27... [when] for the first time anywhere in the world, a national human rights institution will begin the public-hearings phase of its inquiry into the contribution of certain companies to climate-related human rights harms driven by their business of extracting and marketing fossil fuels... The CHR’s inquiry into the big carbon polluters will continue until the end of 2018, with hearings in Europe and the United States as well. This will give the companies an opportunity to engage with the CHR and prove to people affected by climate change worldwide that they are committed to being part of the solution. By early 2019, Commissioner Roberto Cadiz, head of the CHR investigation, expects to be able to issue recommendations on how the companies in question could ease the human rights impacts of their future operations. Others, like responsible investors, can help by putting pressure on them to comply.

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12 February 2018

Petitioners in Philippines continue efforts to hold "carbon majors" accountable for negative impacts of climate change on human rights

Author: Geoff Dembicki, VICE

"The Woman Going After Big Energy for the Typhoon that Killed her Family."

[In 2013, Typhoon] Haiyan destroyed the city of Tacloban and many of the surrounding communities. It killed over 6,300 people, including [Joanna] Sustento’s mother, father, brother, sister, and nephew... “That’s one myth that the big polluters have been feeding us, that [climate change] is everyone’s fault,” [according to] Sustento. “We need to go directly to the people who started it.”

... A human rights commission in the Philippines is trying to settle once and for all the issue of blame [for climate change]. It will be holding public hearings in the US, Europe, and the Philippines this year is to answer...: Should the 47 “carbon majors,” the biggest investor-owned greenhouse gas emitters in the world, be held accountable for fatalities and destruction linked to their business model?... Greenpeace and other civil society groups presented their argument in a 2015 petition to the Commission on Human Rights. They pointed to calculations from climate researcher Richard Heede showing Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, BP and several dozen other “carbon majors” are responsible for 22 percent of all human carbon emissions. And they cited science linking those emissions to crop failures, rising seas, ocean acidification, and disasters like Haiyan... The Commission on Human Rights reviewed the petition and agreed to hold an inquiry. In doing so it was making history. “This kind of case has been filed before other national human rights institutions but they all rejected it,” Commissioner Cadiz explained. “But [we] said, ‘Alright, we are willing to be the first.’” Reactions from the companies under investigation were varied. Many ignored a request in 2016 to provide input. Some listed their investments in clean technologies. And others—including ConocoPhillips, which made several legal challenges to the commission’s jurisdiction—effectively tried to shut the investigation down.

... The Philippines Commission on Human Rights is not a court. It can’t make legal rulings. All it can do is provide an opinion about whether these 47 corporations committed human rights abuses—and map a path to justice for the victims... [Yet] some believe this case has the potential to transform our understanding of climate change from a distant scientific threat for which we are all partially responsible to deadly chaos accelerated by 47 corporations... “Lawyers learn from each other,” [said] John Knox, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. “If the Philippines Commission on Human Rights is able to make a persuasive case… then you would expect to see those arguments appearing in other forums.” For companies like Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP, it increases the risk of lawsuits and regulations that could cost them trillions of dollars.

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8 February 2018

Oil majors to face London, New York hearings over Philippines climate impact

Author: Megan Darby, Climate Home News

6 February 2018

The Philippines Human Rights Commission is set to confront carbon majors over their climate change impact with hearings in Manila, New York and London this year... Commissioner Roberto Cadiz urged the targeted companies, which include Chevron, ExxonMobil and BP, to engage. “The reason why we are holding two hearings outside Manila is to make this a very inclusive process... We do understand that most of the respondent companies are not prepared to travel all the way to Manila to participate… We continue to invite the respondents to participate in this process, because if they do not, we might come up with certain recommendations that will be adverse to their interests and they will only have themselves to blame.”

... Since campaigners led by Greenpeace Southeast Asia lodged the petition in 2015, the response from its targets has been muted. Half of the 47 companies, whose products generated around a fifth of historic greenhouse gas emissions, did not respond. Those that did questioned the commission’s jurisdiction, or argued it was for governments, not private companies, to tackle climate change... So far, the commission has consulted communities hit by intense tropical storms and environmental changes, gathering stories of how these affected their rights to food, water, health, homes and – in some cases – life. The next stage is to establish how much of that lived experience can be attributed to climate change, and the extent of the respondents’ responsibility. Hearings are due to start in Manila in March, with the overseas sessions likely to follow in the second half of 2018.

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23 January 2018

Commission on Human Rights Overview of the Petition and National Inquiry

Author: Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines

A petition has been filed before the Commission, praying for an investigation on the responsibility of the so-called private “Carbon Majors” for allegedly contributing to climate change, which, it is further asserted, is impacting the human rights of the Filipino people.

The petitioners seek to establish how climate change is related to the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters and how human rights are affected by it.

The case is novel in its attempt to haul the respondent “carbon majors” in one “global petition” involving human rights. It seeks to promote…the notion that businesses have an obligation to respect human rights…under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights…

For the first time…a Petition casting the issue of climate change within the framework of human rights has been filed with a National Human Rights Institution…The Commission…has launced an inquiry, entitled: “National Inquiry on the Impact of Climate Change on the Rights of the Filipino People and the Responsbility therefor of the “Carbon Majors.”

In conducting this inquiry, the Commission is fully cognizant of the principle of territoriality…It…seeks to enquire if climate change impacts human rights and, if so, whether the “carbon majors” (and other duty bearers) have responsibility…

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