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Date set for world’s first human rights and climate change inquiry

The Philippines Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has announced the first ever inquiry into the impacts of climate change on human rights.

The national investigation will consider the responsibility of fossil fuel companies and their effect on the environment and people of the Philippines. It names 47 of the most energy intensive companies on the planet – known as the ‘Carbon Majors’ – including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total, Peabody Coal, RWE, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

Yesterday the CHR announced that the first hearings will be held in April 2017 and publicly shown online.

This is an exciting development. Earlier in the year, the CHR wrote to the Carbon Majors after a petition, facilitated by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, called for the inquiry. The majority of companies did not respond and those that did failed to provide any meaningful response. Many of the companies challenged the CHR’s legal right to even conduct the investigation.

ClientEarth climate lawyer Sophie Marjanac said: “This is a globally significant moment for climate change and human rights law. The Commission has stood firm and asserted its constitutional duty to protect and promote the human rights of the Filipino people.  It has confirmed that it has a mandate to investigate violations of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.

“The fossil fuel majors must take responsibility for the human rights implications of climate change, and mitigate the continued emissions of greenhouse gases from their operations and products.”

The Carbon Majors have misunderstood the role and powers of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights. They have failed to recognise that the investigation is non-judicial, they have failed to respond to the harm their activities are causing the people of the Philippines, and they have failed to engage on this important topic.

The Carbon Majors are some of the same companies that made pledges and commitments before the adoption of the Paris Agreement, to recognise the risks climate change poses to the environment and human life.

Climate change is a human rights issue

This inquiry will allow the CHR to explore the causal links between corporate emissions, climate change and human rights.

ClientEarth has submitted expert evidence to the CHR, recommending that it should call on the Philippines to honour its own obligations and commitments to human rights by ratifying and implementing the Paris Agreement.

In its expert evidence, ClientEarth also suggested that the CHR should recommend that the Carbon Majors publish detailed business plans that align with the 2C goal in the Paris Agreement. This would mean the fossil fuel companies were complying with international responsibilities on business and human rights and would show they are serious about tackling climate change, preventing adverse human rights impacts caused by their activities and products.

ClientEarth hopes that the CHR’s final recommendations will send a powerful signal, to emitters and to States, that respecting human rights means mitigating emissions.

 

Read ClientEarth’s amicus curiae brief to the Commission on Human Rights.

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