People vs. big polluters

People around the world are boldly and peacefully demanding action from big polluters and laggard governments to safeguard our human rights to a stable climate and healthy and safe environment. >>

  • New Zealand. Law student Sarah Thomson is battling the country’s Government in court over its failure to properly address climate change. She claims that as a developed country, New Zealand has an obligation under the Paris Agreement to set a target in line with the scientific consensus. A win would potentially mean the New Zealand Government will be forced to go back to the drawing board and come up with more ambitious climate targets. Along with similar lawsuits, it will set a bar for the type of action that developed countries must take to prevent dangerous climate change.
  • Netherlands. Nearly 900 citizens along with the Urgenda Foundation filed a climate case against the Dutch government. In 2015 they won, and the court ordered  the government to increase the ambition of its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. While the government is appealing the verdict, it has committed to complying with it in the interim and will be closing coal-fired power stations.

  • Canada. The Inuit community of Clyde River had its case heard before the Supreme Court of Canada, demanding that the permits issued by the National Energy Board in 2014 to conduct seismic exploration for oil and gas in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait be cancelled. Clyde River argues that seismic blasting is a known and often fatal  threat to marine mammals and further impacts Inuit hunting, their way of life, and food security. These permits were granted without adequate consultation or consent from Inuit, which is a violation of their rights as Indigenous Peoples.

  • United States21 youth from the United States, with the support of Our Children’s Trust, are charging ahead with their federal constitutional case seeking the adoption of a national science-based Climate Recovery Plan. The young people are arguing that the U.S. government has known for decades about catastrophic climate change, but has failedt to protect the youth. They argue this is a violation of the youth’s constitutional rights. Three fossil fuel industry associations are also named defendants in the case. In November 2016, a federal judge denied the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss the youth’s case. According to Our Children’s Trust, “[t]he decision means that the youth, age 9 to 20 and from all over the U.S., now have standing because their rights are at stake, and now their case is headed to trial.” Subsequently, the fossil fuel industry associations have been allowed to withdraw from the case. The case is now headed to trial in February 2018.

  • PhilippinesFilipino disaster survivors and other brave individuals, along with 11 NGOs including Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines, triggered a first-ever national investigation into the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for human rights impacts, or threats thereof, resulting from climate change. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines launched an investigation into the responsibility of carbon producers for human rights impacts resulting from climate change in December 2015, during the historic Paris climate summit. The Commission requested the companies to respond to the Petition by the end of September 2016. The investigation is moving forward with a national inquiry, which carries significant weight since such procedures are only used for matters of paramount  importance to the country and citizens. The Petitioners are calling for public hearings to be held in 2017.

  • GermanyA Peruvian farmer, Saúl Luciano Lliuya, has sued a German fossil producer and utility - RWE - in Germany. He is asking for RWE to pay its share (based on the company’s contribution of greenhouse gases) of the costs to prevent further harm to his property from glacial flooding. On December 15, 2016, the District Court Essen dismissed the case. The decision has been appealed.

  • NorwayYoung people from the NGO Nature & Youth, and Greenpeace Nordic filed a lawsuit against the government for opening up 40 new blocks for oil and gas drilling in the Barents Sea. They are challenging a decision by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to offer 13 different companies licenses for exploratory drilling and oil and gas extraction. The plaintiffs allege that the licenses infringe on the Norwegian constitutional right to a healthy environment for current and future generations, that they contravene the goals of the Paris Agreement and constitute a breach of other international environmental and human rights law obligations. The case will be heard in November 2017.

  • Switzerland. In Switzerland, KlimaSeniorinnen (Senior Women for Climate Protection), representing more than 450 women aged 65 and over, sent a formal legal complaint to the Swiss Government and three administrative bodies responsible for national climate policies, marking the first step in litigation. The seniors are challenging the government’s climate policies, highlighting shortfalls that are putting their lives and future generations at risk. The case will proceed to court if the government fails to comply with their demands.

Inspired and emboldened by the courageous efforts of people around the world all standing up for human rights to protect current and future generations from climate change, Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines, together with 13 organizations and 18 individuals opened another new chapter in our collective history. They filed a groundbreaking legal petition with the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) on September 22, 2015. Now the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines has started its investigation on behalf of the Filipino people and needs YOUR support.

The Petitioners will no longer accept the risk of losing their homes, livelihoods, and family members in order to support a way of life that is driving all of humanity towards a bleak future. They’re doing their part and asking those responsible to do theirs. They have asked the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) to focus on the existing 46 investor-owned fossil-fuel Carbon Majors because the public, shareholders, and the governments that regulate the companies have the power to change the practices of these businesses. The Petition is forward-looking and aims to improve corporate conduct to protect the rights of those most vulnerable to climate change.

 

The Big Polluters

Below are the 47 investor-owned entities’ cumulative MtCO2e (Million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) with data through 2013. Corporate information contained in this website is based on publicly available information accessible as of September 9, 2016 and may be subject to change.

Research on cumulative million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent is from: Heede, Richard (2014) Tracing anthropogenic CO2 and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers 1854-2010, Climatic Change, vol. 122(1): 229-241; For the original report see: Heede, R. 2014. Carbon Majors: Accounting for Carbon and Methane Emissions 1854-2010, Methods and Results Report, April 7, 2014. For more details on the Carbon Majors Updates see Climate Accountability Institute: here.

Timeline

*click on an item to show details.

June 8, 2015

People from climate-impacted communities from Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji and the Solomon Islands as well as representatives from the Philippines vow to seek ‘Climate Justice’ and hold big polluters accountable for fuelling global climate change during a workshop held in Vanuatu.

September 22, 2015

Typhoon survivors and civil society groups in the Philippines deliver a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) calling for an investigation into the responsibility of big fossil fuel companies for fuelling catastrophic climate change that is resulting in human rights violations.

December 5, 2015

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines announces its investigation of the Big Polluters. Watch the announcement here.

May 27, 2016

Petitioners submit copies of their petition in compliance with CHR’s Order, which also enjoins the big polluters to answer within 45 days upon receiving their copies.

July 27, 2016

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) sends copies of the complaint filed by the Petitioners, including disaster survivors, community organisations and Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines, as well as an official order, to the headquarters of the world’s largest investor-owned fossil fuel and cement producers.

December 8, 2016

Despite apparent opposition from fossil fuel companies, the Commission on Human Rights announces that it will proceed in 2017 with the investigation.

February 14, 2017

The Petitioners file a consolidated response, requesting the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to deny the Big Polluters’ demands for a dismissal, and challenging CEOs to be part of the solution by fully participating in the national inquiry.

May 5, 2017

Several respondents submit to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) their respective rejoinders to the petitioners’ consolidated reply.

Corporate Accountability

*click on an item to show details.

Conservation Law Foundation, an NGO that fights for clean air, clean water, and clean energy on behalf of communities in New England in the United States, notified Exxon that it would sue the company for pollutants that are leaking out of one of the company’s shoreline terminals. They also allege that Exxon has not adequately prepared the terminal in the event of flooding from rising sea levels or a catastrophic storm, which Exxon had knowledge would happen. The case was filed in September 2016 in a U.S. District Court in Boston, Massachusetts.

Filipino disaster survivors and other brave individuals, along with 14 NGOs including Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines, triggered a first-ever national investigation into the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for human rights impacts resulting from climate change. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines launched an investigation into the responsibility of carbon producers for human rights impacts resulting from climate change in December 2015, during the historic Paris climate summit. The Commission requested the companies to respond to the Petition by the end of September 2016 and now it is moving forward with a national inquiry, which carries significant weight since such procedures are only rarely used for matters of great importance to the country and citizens. The Petitioners are calling for public hearings to be held in early 2017.

ClientEarth, a legal NGO committed to securing a healthy planet, alerted the Financial Reporting Council (FRC, the UK’s independent financial regulator, responsible for corporate governance oversight) to breaches in reporting by two oil and gas companies (Cairn and SOCO) alleging that they failed to adequately disclose climate change risks. The matter is now in the hands of the FRC. It can issue a Committee reference, Press Notice, or apply for a court order compelling the company to re-issue the annual report (and the costs of this can be recoverable from the companies’ directors personally).

A Peruvian farmer, Saúl Luciano Lliuya, has sued a German fossil producer and utility - RWE - in Germany. He is asking for RWE to pay its share (based on the company’s contribution of greenhouse gases) of the costs to prevent further harm to his property from glacial flooding. On December 15, 2016, the Regional Court of Essen will announce whether the farmer’s legal challenge will proceed to evidentiary phase of the case.

Exxon knew about climate change almost four decades ago and chose to spread climate denial over taking action. The Attorneys General of New York and Massachusetts have launched investigations to determine whether Exxon misled the public, consumers, and investors about the risks of climate change. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC - the US financial regulator) is investigating whether Exxon committed accounting violations in disclosures about its reserves.

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