Donald Trump’s oil sector allies will be called to account for alleged human rights violations next year.
Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Conoco Phillips are among the top targets of an inquiry by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines into the links between fossil fuel production, climate change and people losing homes and livelihoods to weird weather.
Public hearings will start in April 2017, Commissioner Roberto Cadiz revealed in an English language press conference on Thursday.
“There is a worldwide interest in this case and because of that, we will be conducting the hearing, webcasting it live so that other jurisdictions can observe and also submit their comments,” he said.
The Commission – an independent body created under the 1987 Philippines constitution – is expected to seek testimony from people who have suffered from climate-linked disasters like Typhoon Haiyan; climate scientists and the fossil fuel giants accused of profiting from a harmful industry.
While Rex Tillerson, the Exxon boss tipped for secretary of state under US president-elect Trump, is due to retire from the company in March, his successor faces some awkward questions.
The 47 investor-owned carbon majors under scrutiny cannot be compelled to appear, but may decide it is worth defending their positions. Around twenty responded to a call for written evidence, Cadiz said.
As Climate Home reported in October, the responses variously dismissed the Commission’s jurisdiction, played up corporate policies on climate change and defended the positive role of fossil fuels in supplying energy.
The inquiry responds to a petition brought by 18 individuals and 14 NGOs including Greenpeace Southeast Asia a year ago.
“As long as companies and governments fail to act on climate change, every day is human rights day. Today, we got much closer to our aspiration of holding those most responsible for the climate crisis accountable, in order to prevent further harm,” said Yeb Sano, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and one of the individual petitioners
“Our call has been heeded. The CHR has shown its resolve to pursue this inquiry, and it gives us great hope and inspiration.”
While the Commission has no power to impose penalties on the companies, it could put pressure on them to change their investment plans.
“As petitioners, we will continue to advocate for our demands, including an authoritative finding by the CHR that fossil fuel companies must respect human rights and outline steps that would shift their existing business practices away from further contributions to climate change and prevent human rights impacts,” said Rose Trajano, Secretary General of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, one of the petitioning organisations.