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Ground-breaking inquiry

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos - CDN Digital | December 12,2019 - 07:35 AM

She does not mince words when lambasting the doublespeak when it comes to climate change. Sixteen year old climate activist Greta Thunberg, just recently selected Time’s 2019 Person of the Year, chided rich countries, global banks, political leaders and Chief Executive Officers, for “not doing their fair share  and get down to real zero emission much faster” in fighting the climate crisis we face. 

 Speaking during the UN Conference of Parties (COP) 25 being held in Madrid, Spain, Thunberg asserts that the biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger, she says, is when they make it look like real action is happening when in fact  almost nothing is being done  apart from clever accounting and clever PR.”

There is no such  pretension in the Philippines, which is the number 1 country most vulnerable to natural hazards and to the impacts of climate change. There is just appalling inaction – which one is worse, I leave it all up to you to assess. 

The performance of the  Climate Change Commission under the Office of the President as the “sole policy-making body of the government which shall be tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change” under RA 9729, leaves much to be desired.

But, we do have a knight in shining armor in Government that tries to live up to its mandate to protect human rights of the citizens, including the right to a healthy and safe environment including harm from climate change. The constitutionally established Commission on Human Rights represented by Commissioner Roberto Cadiz, announced  the result of its Inquiry on December 9, at the sidelines of COP 25. In the words of Atty. Gerthie Mayo Anda, “after more than four years, the Philippine CHR arrived at a resolution on the petition filed by various non-government organizations (led by Greenpeace and PRRM) and individuals against some 47 investor-owned, fossil-fuel and cement companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Repsol, Sasol and Total.”  

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) notes that “The Commission found that climate change constitutes an emergency situation that demands urgent action. The Commission further concluded that Carbon Major companies played a clear role in anthropogenic climate change and its attendant impacts. The Commission found that, based on the evidence, Carbon Major companies could be found legally and morally liable for human rights violations arising from climate change.

“While the Commission did not undertake to adjudicate the responsibility of the Carbon Major companies, it concluded that people affected by climate change and whose human rights have been dramatically impaired deserve access to remedy and access to justice. Significantly, the Commission found that in circumstances involving obstruction, deception, or fraud, the relevant mens rea (criminal intent) may exist to hold companies accountable under not only civil but criminal laws.”

Sébastien Duyck, Senior Attorney at CIEL said that “The investigation of the Philippines Commission demonstrates in particular the importance for these institutions to support governments in ensuring that businesses uphold their human rights and due diligence responsibility in the context of climate change. National human rights institutions have a key role to play in working with national governments to ensure that private actors are effectively regulated to prevent further harm and – when their mandate allows – to hold private actors accountable for climate-related human rights harms.”

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