Greenpeace, environmentalists vs ‘big polluters’

Human rights complaint filed vs 50 oil, cement companies

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo, –

22 September 2015

Greenpeace Philippines and several other environmental groups on Tuesday
filed what is considered the first human rights complaint against “big
polluters” – 50 multinational companies that are among the largest
emitters of greenhouse gases.

The 40-page petition, signed by 13 environmental groups and 20
individuals, wants the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate
so-called “Carbon Majors” for human rights violations resulting from
impacts of climate change.

The petition names 50 “Carbon Majors” as respondents and cites a study
by scientist Richard Heede holding accountable 90 of the world’s largest
fossil fuel companies and cement producers.

Of the 50 respondents, 10 have branches or subsidiaries in the
Philippines — Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP
Billiton, Anglo American, Lafarge, Holcim, and Taiheiyo Cement Corporation.

CHR Chair Chito Gascon and Commissioner Karen Dumpit received the
complaint after the civil society groups trooped from Philcoa to the CHR
office in Quezon City.

Climate change and human rights

Gascon welcomed the petitioners and said, “Bibigyan po namin ito ng
oras, panahon at makikipag-ugnayan kami sa inyo at iba pang stakeholders
para alamin at suriin ng mabuti ang isyu ng climate change kaugnay ng
human rights na tulad nga ng sabi ko ay unique at kakaiba sa amin, sa
aming karanasan dito sa Komisyon ng Human Rights.”

(We will devote time for this and will coordinate with you and other
stakeholders so we can properly analyze the issue of climate change and
its relation to human rights, which is, as I said, unique and new to the
Commission on Human Rights.)

Gascon said the CHR may hold a public inquiry, which involves consulting
all stakeholders, as well as experts.

He also said the CHR is well aware of the effects of climate change in
the Philippines.

“Of course it’s a human rights concern because it affects our
livelihood,” Dumpit added, explaining that communities by the shore are
among those experiencing the effects of climate change.

“It’s easy to imagine how human rights are affected because of climate
change and we have to do something right now. But having said that, this
is a petition before us, we will review it and will let you know of the
next steps and our recommendations arising from it,” she said.
envi groups filed complaint vs oil cement companies 3

Environmental groups filed complaint vs “big polluters” before the CHR.

Carbon Majors

Carbon Majors is the title of the study by Heede, which traced
“anthropogenic” or human-caused carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from 1751
to 2010.

The study showed that 50 investor-owned companies have contributed 315
gigatons (Gt) of equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2e) or 21.72 percent of
global industrial emissions. Meanwhile, it discovered that half of the
world’s greenhouse gas emissions occurred since 1986. Greenpeace said it
demonstrated “the increasing speed with which fossil fuels are being

Greenpeace said they chose to file the case before the CHR because the
agency has the power to investigate complaints on all forms of human
rights, including political and civil rights.

“Climate change interferes with the enjoyment of our fundamental rights
as human beings. Hence, we demand accountability of those contributing
to climate change,” the groups said in the petition.

Zelda Soriano, one of the legal representatives of the group, said the
potential landmark case could set a precedent in the climate liability

“According to Carbon Majors data, there are only 90 companies and
entities whose actions have made a measurable, demonstrable and
cumulative contribution to climate change. Yet, none of them are being
held accountable for the catastrophic human impacts of this
contribution. The upcoming petition has the potential to change that,”
she explained.

Heede’s study explains that the rapid rise of carbon dioxide has been
caused big human activities such as deforestation “and more
significantly, from the mining and combustion of geologic deposits of
fossil fuels.”


The Philippines, which has become the poster boy of climate change after
the onslaught of typhoon “Yolanda,” is among the countries bearing the
brunt of the effects of climate change.

Although many of the respondents are based overseas, Greenpeace, in its
petition, said governments may act on “transboundary matters like
climate change, where harmful activity is taking place in one country,
and the negative impacts are being suffered in another.”

It also cited the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which
states that corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights
based on a “global standard of expected conduct applicable to all
businesses in all situations.”

Meanwhile, Dumpit explained that the “CHR is a constitutional body
tasked to investigate human rights violations but [they will be] drawing
on several of [their] mandates including monitoring government
compliance of human rights treaties.”

Soriano said Gascon’s and Dumpit’s responses were promising and that the
groups hope there will be a “substantive move” before the 21st
Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris this December.

During the said climate negotiations, parties to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will seek to come up
with a legally-binding agreement on climate change that will help limit
the global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above
pre-industrial levels.

Soriano explained that the CHR’s findings might lead to a recommendation
for the petitioners to file a court case against the Carbon Majors.

“All these petitioners are really serious in getting more information,
collecting more data and considering very seriously other efforts aside
from this human rights and climate change complaint,” she said.

In addition to Greenpeace Philippines, the following organizations have
signed the petition: Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Sentro ng
mga nagkakaisa at progresibong manggagawa, Dakila, Philippine Alliance
of Human Rights Advocates, Philippine Human Rights Information Center,
Mother Earth Foundation, EcoWaste Coalition, East Asia,
Nagkakaisang Ugnayan ng mga Magsasaka at Manggagawa sa Niyugan, Asian
Peoples’ Movement on Debt & Development, Alliance of Youth Organizations
and Students-Bicol, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, and Nuclear
Free Bataan Movement.

The following individuals are also among the petitioners: Von Hernandez,
Fr. Edwin Gariguez, former Climate Change Commissioner Naderev “Yeb”
Saño, mural artist Amado Guerrero Saño, performing artist and tour
operator Carlos Celdran, actress Angel Aquino, talent manager Pia Arroyo
Magalona, actress Maria Isabella Simone “Saab” Arroyo Magalona-Bacarro,
singer Juan Manuel “Kokoi” Baldo, Lidy Nacpil, Benjamin Aceron, Elma
Reyes, Laidy Remando, Richard Lopez, Constancia Lopez, Lerissa Libao,
Gloria Cadiz, Ronie Flores, and Veronica V. Cabe.