philippines-coastToday, the Sabin Center made a submission to the Philippines Commission on Human Rights in support of a petition requesting an investigation into the responsibility of the investor-owned “Carbon Majors” for human rights violations resulting from the impacts of climate change. The Commission has already launched the investigation, and is now in the process of determining whether and how these companies may be held accountable for their contribution to climate change. The companies under investigation are coal, oil, natural gas and cement producers that are jointly responsible for approximately one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Our submission focuses on two critical components of the investigation: (1) the nexus between climate change and the effective enjoyment of human rights, and (2) the legal basis for holding private companies accountable for human rights violations arising from their contribution to climate change.

With respect to impacts: one key consideration is the fact that the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. It has already experienced severe consequences as a result of more intense tropical cyclones, such as Typhoon Haiyan (which claimed more than 7,000 lives and displaced more than four million people), monsoons, droughts, and heat waves. Going forward, these impacts will intensify and worsen – for example, the IPCC predicts with high confidence that the severity of tropical cyclones in the Northern Pacific basin (where the Philippines is located) will continue to increase during the 21st century. Our submission provides a detailed overview of these observed and predicted impacts, and precisely how these impacts affect the enjoyment of specific rights, such as the rights to life, health, clean water, food, housing and self-determination. One key goal is to show the Commission that climate change is not merely a future, abstract threat: it is already interfering the exercise of fundamental rights in the Philippines and abroad.

Our submission also reviews the numerous statements made by international and domestic human rights bodies recognizing the linkages between climate change and human rights and calling upon national governments to provide effective remedies – both judicial and non-judicial – for human rights violations caused by climate change. We cite international law sources to make it clear that the Commission has jurisdiction over this matter and that private companies may be held accountable for their contribution to human rights violations caused by climate change.

A copy of our submission is available here. A summary of the proceeding and key documents are available on our Non-U.S. Climate Litigation Database.

For a complete overview of our work in this area, please visit our human rights and climate change page.

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