HomeNewsGreen activists welcome declaration of climate change as human rights issue

Green activists welcome declaration of climate change as human rights issue

In a landmark case, the CHR declared climate change as human rights issue, saying that neglect of climate change mitigation is a threat to human rights

Climate survivors, advocates, and activists called for urgent climate action from potential winners of the 2022 national elections, after the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) released its groundbreaking report on the National Inquiry on Climate Change.

“The findings of the Commission on Human Rights are a victory for the millions of people whose fundamental rights are being impacted by the corporations behind the climate crisis,” said Yeb Saño, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines executive director.

“The message is clear: there are legal grounds for communities to hold corporations accountable for undermining climate action,” he said in a statement.

In a landmark case, the CHR declared climate change as human rights issue, saying that neglect of climate change mitigation is a threat to human rights.

The declaration came after a petition was filed in 2015 urging the human rights body to look into how climate change impacts the human rights of Filipinos and how it affects the right to life.

Not only does climate change affect an individual’s right to life, it also affects collectives, and “practically the whole gamut of human rights,” said former CHR commissioner Roberto Cadiz, who led the four-year inquiry that started in 2018.

The report said any “neglect in climate change mitigation may be considered human rights violation.”

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The inquiry, the first of its kind, sets a precedent for the international community as well as local courts and national human rights institutions around the world.

In its statement, Greenpeace said the next step forward is for the incoming government to implement genuine climate action. The group highlighted the need for a “vibrant democracy and good governance that will enable climate and environmental justice.”

“This decision comes at a time when the Filipinos are about to elect their new leaders, whose first order of business should be protecting the people from the impacts of the worsening climate crisis, heeding the communities’ call for accountability from the fossil fuel industry, and strengthening democratic processes and institutions,” said Greenpeace campaigner Virginia Llorin.

She said the report “will not resolve climate change,” but described it as “one step toward holding corporations responsible for the worsening [climate] crisis, which leads to human rights violations.”

Climate activists and environmental groups mount an “art attack protest” dubbed “Hands on Climate Action” at the Science Complex in Quezon City as part of the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 25, 2020. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Lawyer Grizelda “Gerthie” Mayo-Anda of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center said the case is significant because it is the first case in the Philippines and in the world where human rights harms caused by carbon majors and fossil fuel-producing companies have been demanded by vulnerable communities and civil society groups.

“The finding that the business operations of these companies have human rights implications provides us with several possibilities in terms of future legal and policy actions,” said Mayo-Anda.

Llorin, meanwhile, calle on the incoming Philippine government leaders and world leaders to adopt the Commission’s findings and hold big polluters responsible for the “climate-damaging impacts of their business activities.”

“Act on these findings and issue policies that will not only hold climate-polluting businesses accountable and prevent further harm but will also ensure a just future for the people,” she said.

Marinel Ubaldo, ecological justice advocate of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, said the report is “a big win not just for the Filipino people, but for all vulnerable communities and marginalized sectors in the world.”

Ubaldo, one of the petitioners in the case, said the fight for climate justice in the Philippines “is only beginning.”

“The next president has a crucial role to play in making sure that the hard work of the Filipino people for climate justice will be continued in court, and that justice will be served for people and communities who have suffered and are still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis,” she said.

Greenpeace listed the following to-do list for the next administration:

  • Hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the climate crisis and call on other countries to do the same. It must also lead the call for a global phase out of fossil fuels toward a just transition to renewable energy.
  • Call on rich countries for more ambitious emissions reductions targets, more money for climate finance, and compensation for loss and damage.
  • Ensure rapid transition to renewable energy at home by phasing out coal, stopping fossil gas expansion and targeting at least 50% of RE in the energy mix by 2030.
  • Ratchet up the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). At the moment, the country has promised a 75% carbon emissions reduction from 2020 to 2030, but the unconditional target is only at 2.72%.
  • Ensure the Climate Emergency Declaration is followed through with a coherent climate plan. The government must institute climate action as the central policy of the state, and must protect people and climate on the basis of climate justice. Climate action must also be at the heart of the country’s COVID recovery plan.

    with a report from Mark Saludes

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