Climate change a human rights issue: CHR

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2019 09:34 AM

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MANILA - Climate change is a human rights issue, the country's independent rights body said Wednesday after it ruled that carbon majors or large fossil fuel companies are "morally responsible" to invest in clean energy.

A four-year inquiry by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world "morally" liable for violating the human rights of Filipinos affected by the impact of their operations on global warming. 

CHR Commissioner Roberto Cadiz said the CHR's inquiry was the first to look into climate change as a human rights issue.

"Our contribution is to establish the notion that climate change is a human rights issue and that businesses, specifically the carbon majors, have a responsibility for honoring or respecting the human rights of people," he told ANC's Early Edition.

"Carbon majors are now morally responsible to invest more on clean energy rather than continuing on business as usual. It is imperative upon them to shift their efforts towards renewable energy."

The commission, however, said carbon majors cannot be held legally responsible for selling fossil fuel or "something that is not illegal."

"We recognize that the global economy is still fossil fuel dependent but we said if ever courts will find legal liability on the part of carbon majors, this would have to be based on acts of...willful obstruction of global efforts to transition the world to clean energy system," he said.

A 2019 study found the Philippines as the most susceptible country to hazards brought about by climate change. Nearly half or 47 percent of the country's population is in areas highly exposed to climate hazards such as earthquakes, tsunami, floods, tropical cyclones and drought.

Despite this, the Philippines is not doing enough to adhere to the Paris Agreement, a 2015 climate pact signed by nations to address climate change by curbing carbon emissions and other harmful activities, global think-tank Climate Analytics earlier said.

Lea Guerrero, country director of environmental group Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the ruling could pave the way for future policies on climate change.

"I think what this does is erode the social license of fossil fuel companies. Right now, fossil fuel companies are so entrenched in our political and economic systems," she said.

"We need to change that, we need to ensure that the world moves now to spur more investments on renewable energy."