February 7, 2020

Climate crisis is aggravating human rights violations caused by the fossil fuel industry, alerts 350.org report

The global climate crisis, mainly generated by the biggest fossil fuel corporations in the world, is seriously aggravating the already extensive and heavy set of human rights violations caused by this same industry, warns a report released this Friday, February 7th, by 350.org. Oil, gas and coal companies are directly or indirectly responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses committed by corporations around the world in the last three decades, as shown by the 10 cases mentioned in the publication.

Considering just a few major cases of violations, the fossil fuel industry was directly responsible for about 45,000 premature deaths caused by health issues, the dump of more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and the opening of almost 2.5 million acres of previously inaccessible indigenous homeland to land speculation, colonisation and deforestation. 

The violations have been committed by both local companies and industry giants like Chevron-Texaco and Shell. In some cases included in the report, companies have acted in tandem with governments or private security groups in an illegal or non-transparent manner. 

With the aggravation of the climate crisis, the negative environmental and social impacts of the actions of fossil fuel companies in several of these cases – and similar ones – are getting worse.

“The pollution and contamination often caused by fossil fuel industry activities mainly affect the poorest populations, as well as the climate crisis. Vulnerable communities are being doubly exposed to losses or scarcity of land, fish stocks and water, for example. Even in the face of the clearest scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels is literally setting the planet on fire, this sector continues to invest in the same old model and often misinforms society about the climate crisis and its causes. In doing so, companies are actively disregarding the right of entire populations to a healthy environment, sufficient and quality food, and a political and social scenario of stability,”  said Aaron Packard, manager of the Climate Defenders program at 350.org.

Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions, not just in terms of climate risks, but also due to rapidly shrinking democratic spaces in countries like Hong Kong, Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, presenting increasing challenges in ensuring environmental and social safeguards. As per a recent study, The Philippines replaced Brazil as the most murderous country in the world for people defending their land and environment.

The 350.org report highlights the need for local and national governments to act to protect climate defenders, such as community leaders who are at the forefront of mobilizations for the rights of affected families. Many of them are targets of threats, aggression, torture or murder.

Norly Grace Mercado, 350.org’s Asia Director said, “In the Philippines, local activist Gloria Capitan was killed for her opposition to a coal project polluting her community and endangering their lives and livelihoods. Together with her community, they also opposed a proposed power plant funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Standard Chartered and Mizuho Bank. Anti-coal activists in Gloria’s community in Bataan still face harassment, intimidation and attacks for demanding genuine consultation about the power plant expansion demolishing their houses.”

350.org’s Digital Campaigner Chuck Baclagon said, “Sadly, the story of Gloria is only one of the many stories of environmental defenders, who every day risk their lives, limb and liberty to stand against companies that threaten not only their local ecosystems but also their means to live their lives with dignity. Many of them are aware of the rising risks of going against huge corporate interests, yet believing that although all people die eventually, it is better to do so while fighting for the good of their community and the planet that we call home.”

Included in the report is the “Carbon Majors Inquiry”, undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines after being petitioned by climate activists and civil society organizations. During the United Nations Climate Change conference, COP 25 in Madrid last December, the Commission announced that it found these Carbon Majors to be legally and morally liable for climate damages, and implored states to fulfill their duty under human rights law and establish regulatory measures to hold them accountable. 

The report also talks about the Rampal Coal Power Plant – a joint venture of the Bangladesh-India Friendship Group and set to be constructed on a UNESCO designated site. This project is emblematic of the human rights abuses that are associated with the construction of fossil fuel power plants. Since the power plant plans were proposed in 2010, there have been mass mobilisations in opposition, to which the government has responded through suppression of freedom of expression, speech and assembly.  

Sharif Jamil of NCSS, BAPA and Waterkeepers Bangladesh and a staunch activist said, “Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world with a dense population. It is therefore extremely important for the global climate defenders to pay serious attention to Bangladesh and its ongoing massive expansion of coal based power production by putting pressure on global investors to extend their cooperation to its sustainable development and renewable energy sector.” 

Community leaders and Human Rights experts from various countries are meeting in Curitiba, Brazil, from February 5-8 for the Climate Defenders Gathering, a space to exchange experiences and build a global network of solidarity. The launch of the report is one of the highlights of this event, which is organized by 350.org.



Aanchal Mehta
[email protected] 
+65 9770 1840