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Climate change inquiry hears evidence in New York

Graphic: Two girls from Tacloban stand in front of damage left by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013

The hearings – the first time this inquiry has travelled outside the Philippines – were held on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

The National Human Rights Commission of the Philippines has held hearings in New York into whether oil companies violate human rights by causing climate change, hoping to attract the attention of world leaders meeting at the United Nations.

Survivors of a 2013 typhoon have asked the Commission to assess the responsibility of oil companies for man-made global warming, which is linked to extreme weather events such as storms and hurricanes.

The hearings – the first time this inquiry has heard evidence outside the Philippines – were held on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

"It's symbolic," Commissioner Roberto Eugenio Cadiz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The complaint, brought by survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that killed thousands of people in 2013 and by more than a dozen organizations such as environmentalists Greenpeace Southeast Asia, names 47 fossil-fuel companies.

The companies include giants Exxon Mobil Corp, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp, Total and BP.

None of the 47 fuel companies accepted invitations to take part in the process, Cadiz said, though some challenged the body's jurisdiction over the matter.


Graphic: Indigenous representatives address the inquiry at a hearing in Manila


The archipelago nation of the Philippines has been battered by intensifying Pacific Ocean typhoons that cause devastating floods.

Katharina Rall, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the Commission's findings, expected next year, would heavily influence future cases filed against oil companies over their role in climate change.

"(It) could have great significance for millions of people around the world," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Recent years have seen a growing number of civil lawsuits charging oil companies with contributing to climate change that is damaging infrastructure and coastal communities.

In the United States, about 20 climate lawsuits are filed each year, while three dozen have been filed in other parts of the globe over the past 15 years, according to the Business & Human Rights Centre.

Cadiz said he hoped the findings contribute to the establishment of an international treaty on respect for human rights by businesses in relation to climate change.

Date: 28 September 2018

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation


Image credits

  1. Two girls from Tacloban stand in front of damage left by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 - UN Photo/Evan Schneider, Flickr; http://bit.ly/2JeRARF
  2. Indigenous representatives address the inquiry at a hearing in Manila - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines