Climate activists call on rights body to ‘stand with communities,’ not delay climate justice

December 10, 2021

Climate activists hold a demonstration outside the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City to demand the release of the report on the world’s first National Inquiry on Climate Change. (Photo supplied)

Climate activists, typhoon survivors, farmers, and fisherfolk trooped to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Philippine capital on Thursday, December 9, to demand the release of the “long-delayed report” on the world’s first National Inquiry on Climate Change (NICC).

The NICC was created in response to a petition filed by pro-environment and human rights activists requesting that the Philippine Commission on Human Rights investigate the responsibility of carbon majors for human rights violations or threats of violations resulting from the impacts of climate change.

The carbon majors are 47 oil, gas, and cement companies whose activities have been studied as the largest contributors of CO2 methane emissions since the industrial revolution.

The NICC process involves dialogues to determine guilt or innocence and to provide the carbon majors an opportunity to be heard and voice their side to provide a mutual resolution for all parties.

The petitioners recently filed a “Motion for Urgent Resolution to the Petition,” stating that the delay in the issuance of the CHR’s final report is “a disservice to Filipino communities and climate survivors who continue to suffer from the impacts of the climate crisis.”

The filing of the motion marked the second year since human right commissioner Roberto Cadiz, the focal commissioner for the NICC, announced the preliminary findings at the sidelines of COP25 in Madrid in 2019.

Climate survivors and activists have since been awaiting the issuance of the final report to the landmark case.

Veronica Cabe, national coordinator of the Nuclear and Coal-Free Bataan Movement, one of the petitioners, said communities from coal-impacted areas are feeling abandoned due to the delay.

“The latest UN climate summit last month showed the fossil fuel industry’s influence over global efforts, setting back global ambition to curb emissions at the expense of the lives, health and livelihoods of communities at the frontlines,” said Yeb Saño Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director.

“This is the time for the CHR to be standing tall and defending the rights of Filipinos in the face of stark climate injustice,” he said, adding that “there should be no more delays in the resolution to the inquiry.”

Ian Rivera, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, said CHR’s prolonged inaction on the case against the carbon majors “only speaks of the possible ‘influence’ of the fossil fuel companies on the institution mandated to protect, fulfill, and promote human rights.”

“This is already an affront to the history of the commission, which was formed in order to prevent the occurrence of the dark years when people and human rights are trampled upon,” said Rivera in a statement.

Climate activists hold a demonstration outside the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City to demand the release of the report on the world’s first National Inquiry on Climate Change. (Photo supplied)

He said the climate crisis “threatens peoples and human rights and has already affected millions,” adding that it is “unlikely for officials of the state human rights commission to remain unperturbed.”

“Decisive climate action from the Commission on Human Rights is long overdue,” said Carlito Baclogan, regional finance campaigner for the group 350.org.

“We hope that this time around, they will act with the kind of urgency that the climate crisis demands,” he said.

The petitioners have been calling on the CHR to issue its report as it could give basis for more legal and political actions to protect communities amid worsening climate impacts.

Once released, the report can be used alongside other efforts, such as the Dutch court’s ruling against Shell, to craft climate-responsive policies and institute more legal actions to counter the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to block the just transition to renewable energy.

“After waiting for six years since the legal action was filed, I think the CHR will understand the inevitable impatience for this inquiry’s resolution,” said Von Hernandez, 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize Awardee.

“Every minute that justice is put on hold will only benefit those who continue to profit from the destruction of the climate,” he said.

Climate activists hold a demonstration outside the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City to demand the release of the report on the world’s first National Inquiry on Climate Change. (Photo supplied)

Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said the CHR is also crucial to help stop business-as-usual systems that perpetuate injustice on communities.

“A strong and urgent report from CHR will help put an end to the activities of the biggest climate-polluting companies that also drive the plastic crisis,” she said.

“Now more than ever, we need the CHR to stand firm against polluting corporations and to enable a society that puts people first over businesses,” said Lucero.

The CHR has been conducting the NICC to determine the impact of climate change on the human rights of the Filipino people and if the top fossil fuel producers of the world, or the so-called carbon majors, are fueling climate change.

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