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Priest backs push for ‘climate accountability’

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Fr. Edu Gariguez

MANILA, Sept. 24, 2015 – In a show of solidarity with victims of “climate violators,” an official of the Philippine Church’s social action arm has called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to underline the need for fossil fuel companies to assume responsibility for climate change-related human rights violations.

“We pray that the CHR heed the demand to recommend to policymakers and legislators to develop and adopt effective accountability mechanisms that victims of climate change can easily access,” stressed Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines. .

The priest, a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, made this statement in the wake of a complaint filed on Sept. 22 by typhoon survivors, advocates, and non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace Southeast Asia at the CHR.

Probe

They seek a probe into the top 50 investor-owned fossil fuel companies and their responsibility for climate impacts that endanger people’s lives, and livelihoods, and those of future generations.

“Inspired by Pope Francis, the Church will support this Philippine climate change and human rights complaint and will continue to serve as a strong ally in the struggle for a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and spiritually rich world that the Pope and the broader climate movement are fighting for,” added Gariguez.

According to peer-reviewed research published by climateaccountability.org, companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips are a subset of the 90 legal entities that have contributed the lion’s share of cumulative global CO2 and methane emissions in the earth’s atmosphere.

‘Bold step’

Lawyer Zelda Soriano, legal and political advisor for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, noted that from the Netherlands to the US, legal systems are used to hold their governments accountable and demand climate action.

“We hope that the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines will take the bold step in being the first in the world to hold big corporate polluters accountable for their contribution to the climate crisis,” she said.

The groups submitting the complaint demand that the investigation be conducted this year in view of its importance in establishing a moral and legal “precedent” that big polluters should be held responsible for current and threatened human rights infringements resulting from fossil fuel products.

Responsibility

These companies have allegedly benefited financially with knowledge of the harms associated with their products.

The complainants all agree it is high-time big polluters bear responsibility for preventing climate harm.

“Though uncertain of the outcome, I know that adding my name as a petitioner is important and supports a much greater cause that will ensure environmental justice for all Filipinos and the rest of humanity,” shared Elma Reyes, who started the online petition upholding human rights and climate change complaint.

Among the organizations that have provided advice and support to the complainants are: Amnesty International, Avaaz, Business and Human Rights Resources Centre, Climate Justice Program, Center for International Environmental Law, EarthRights International, International Trade Union Confederation, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)


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