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CHR orders fossil fuel giants to respond to carbon emission complaint

Companies allegedly responsible for majority of the world's carbon emissions have been ordered by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to respond within 45 days to the complaint that triggered the first-ever rights investigation concerning climate change.

CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon confirmed the development to GMA News Online on Thursday, 10 months after several environmental groups led by Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition brought the issue to the government body.

"We have given due course to undertake an investigation on a petition filed by different groups led by Greenpeace," Gascon said in a text message.

The 47 companies that were sent the petition and the order to respond to allegations of human rights abuses resulting from climate change include Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Glencore, Suncor and ConocoPhillips.

The firms were culled from a 2013 study by climate researcher Richard Heede, who identified that 90 entities—including the worlds' largest fossil fuel companies—are responsible for an estimated 63 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions between 1751 and 2010.

Petitioners asked the CHR to require the companies to submit plans on the steps they will take to eliminate, remedy and prevent the devastating effects of climate change in the Philippines, which is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world.

The complaint also urged the agency to monitor people and communities intensely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“Ultimately, those who have profited most from pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere must bear the burden of preventing the havoc already being wreaked by climate change. This is the first step in that process," Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said in a statement Wednesday.

“We demand justice. These big oil companies should acknowledge their accountability for the impacts of their irresponsible business activities on the lost homes, lives and livelihood of those that are at the mercy of climate change. Filipinos are among the most vulnerable, and we hope that the investigations of the CHR will finally be able to right some wrongs,” added Greenpeace Southeast Asia climate justice campaigner Anna Abad in an earlier release from the international environment group.

Hearings are expected to begin in October after the companies have responded.

The CHR has no enforcement mechanism for its decisions but it can make recommendations to concerned government agencies on how to go forward. — BM, GMA News