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World’s 47 largest carbon producers face landmark case

5th Aug 2016

The world’s largest carbon, oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines.

In a case which could be a landmark for human rights, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”.

The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.

The complaint argues that the 47 companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines, and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented”. It also calls for an official investigation into the human rights implications of climate change and ocean acidification and whether the investor-owned “carbon majors” are in breach of their responsibilities.

The list of the 47 “carbon majors” being asked to respond to the CHR is based on research by Richard Heede, director of the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado, who calculated in 2013 that 90 global companies had produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the start of the industrial revolution.

The full legal investigation is expected to start in October, after the 47 companies have responded. Although all 47 will be ordered to attend public hearings, the CHR can only force those 10 with offices in the Philippines to appear. The CHR has the power to seek the assistance of the UN to encourage any which do not attend to co-operate.

The investigation is the latest in a growing tide of climate liability cases being brought against governments and corporations.