By Mohammed Ridwanul Islam
As Richard Heedeof climate accountability institute showed that 90 state owned, investor owned, and government run entities are responsible for world’s climate change risks, the movement for fighting climate change induced human rights violation through courtroom battles are gaining momentum around the world.
The first instance of such movement was brought before a district court of Hague, in the Netherlands by a non-profit organization. The URGENDA Foundation, i.e. The URGENDA Foundation vs Netherlands. The URGENDA Foundation was successful in achieving court’s positive nod. In which the court ruled to take move positive actions in protecting Human Rights of Dutch people irrespective of what the international bindings are.
The Court Ruled- “States Legal obligation on Environmental protection is not merely subject to international treaties and thus include legal obligations towards its citizens”
This was the first case where the Govt. was held liable and Human Rights was attached to a litigation of “Climate Change Risk”
But, Can anyone think of holding those 90 MNCS or any other “Carbon Majors” liable ?
A Peruvian farmer unsuccessfully attempted to sue RWE, a German Power-Giant. Though he was unsuccessful, the event surely inspired Human Rights activist throughout the world. Just, in the case of Philippines- the Philippine Commission of Human Rights (CHR) started an investigation against such 47 “Carbon Majors” for threats of violation for climate threats of violation for climate impacts.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia, along with 13 Pilipino Civil society organizations filed a petition to CHR. The CHR is a constitutional body though not Judicial, has power to investigate and monitor all forms of Human Rights violations and abuses. Accordingly, the CHR sent the petition and order to all 47 companies to answer and comment on the petition.
The case of Philippines – Oposa vs. Factoran
Groundbreaking URGENDA Case literally opened a new era in holding “The Govt.” liable. Even then, what would be the situation if a German Company tends to violate human rights in the territory of Peru or Venezuela or in Mexico? Experts are divided in their opinions. While the case of llyiua vs. RWE, the standing of that Peruvian farmer get rejected by the court; the stance of Philippines however, may be proved to be more effective.
In the famous case of Oposa vs. Factoran, the Supreme Court of Philippines accepted the principle of “Inter-Generational Responsibility” by widening the term” Legal standing (conceptually similar to locus standi). Literally, it was not hard for Greenpeace and other 13 Civil society groups to prove their legal standing, at least in a competent Court of Philippines!
The interesting fact is “the petition before CHR in Philippines” is a climate litigation based on Human Rights Violation. And Human Rights Claimants and Activists Argue that the inadequacy of Laws to bring the “Carbon Majors” under the ambit of any national Jurisdiction could not justify the lack of accountability or inaction because “Human Rights” need not even be written in any statute for they are assumed to exist since the inception of Mankind”.
The “CHR” is empowered with some investigative power and recommendations, merely. But, the incident itself is epoch making one. In other side of the world i.e. in America, 21 youth plaintiffs (Which is now known as kids VS Climate change) sued their Government for more proper Climate Action on the basis of “Public trust doctrine”, Which is believed to be inspired form the example of Philippines and the Netherlands. Literally saying, We have entered into an “Era of Climate litigation” as echoed by Tessa Khan, a Bangladeshi Australian, Head of climate litigation network.
As the nexus of “Climate Change and Human Rights” are getting involved in climate change litigation, the worlds may also see a rise in “Climate Refugee litigation” Those people are surely the “Hardest hit” of climate misbehavior, Not falling under the ambit of “UNHCR”.
Surely, we are going to see a “Huge influxes of such “Human Rights violations” Cases in coming days. And kudos to Mr. Emmanuel Macron, Who is going to present a new Global convention on protection of Human Rights for a clean, healthy environment. Let’s hope for the best, Let Human Rights win.
Mohammed Ridwanul Islam holds an LL.M from University of Chittagong, from where he also completed his graduation on law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org