As UN Summit kicks off, global coalition turns up heat to hold Big Polluters liable.
NEW YORK—Today, as governments convene to announce their plans to increase climate ambition, a global coalition issued them a stern demand to force the fossil fuel industry and other Big Polluters to finally pay for the damage they’ve caused.
The first-of-its-kind global coalition unites movements and campaigning from around the globe focused on ensuring those most responsible for the climate crisis are held criminally and financially liable for their abuses. For decades, Big Polluters like Exxon and Shell have spent billions of dollars simultaneously fueling and denying the climate crisis, delaying action, and promoting false “solutions” at every level—all while generating billions in profits each year.
The fossil fuel industry has made billions all while knowing that their operations were killing the people and the planet,” said Lidy Nacpil of Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, “Holding them liable is a first step toward making them pay for the abuses they’ve driven in our communities and the irreversible damage they’ve done to our planet, all in the name of profit.”
Fossil fuel industry liability in particular is a growing area of focus for climate experts, academics and governments alike as the industry’s long history of denial and the link between industry emissions and climate impacts becomes more evidenced. From U.S. states to Vanuatu to Peru, elected officials and people are exploring holding the fossil fuel industry liable for its long history of deceit and environmental destruction.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament held a hearing investigating Exxon’s attempts to mislead the public. The Philippines’ commission on human rights is considering the fossil fuel industry’s responsibility for human rights violations in connection to climate change. And in Peru, a farmer is suing a German utility for its role in the crisis harming his livelihood.
In the United States, the climate plans of numerous presidential candidates include taking steps to hold the industry liable. And industry attempts to preempt accountability at the city and national level have consistent failed to gain support.
“The fossil fuel industry must take full responsibility for the climate change crisis. There is no alternative to cutting down emission at source and the time is now,” said Philip Jakpor of Environmental Rights Action.
The world is now facing one climate disaster per week, and it comes with an extraordinary cost. Cyclone Idai cause US$2 billion in damages in just three countries. These disasters are impacting every corner of the globe, but the economic cost of their damage often pales in comparison to the profits of major fossil fuel producers. In 2018, Exxon, Chevron, PB, Shell and Total S.A. spent US$1 billion on misleading climate-related branding and lobbying and had net profits of nearly US$83.11 billion.
“If it weren’t for a handful of corporations, the world might have responded to climate change decades ago, saving millions of lives and averting the worst impacts,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability, “They are most responsible for this crisis and must be made to pay for the damages, loss of life, and climate doubt their operations have created.”
While today’s impacts are disproportionately borne by those least responsible, the real solutions to address the crisis are being developed and led in these same communities. These solutions are available but they require resources that have so far not been delivered. The petition calls for governments to take steps towards holding polluting industries liable, to facilitate access to real solutions and address climate damages. It says, “This is a debt that is already owed by corporations—and the individuals behind them—to these communities, and its distribution must be accountable to them as they seek to restore balance with nature.”
“Indigenous Peoples as all of humanity suffer massive and gross violations of their rights by the continuation of fossil fuel emissions. Those directly responsible must exercise some morality and look to their future generations as well as ours, and the continuation of life on Mother Earth as we know it and take immediate steps to stop their emissions at source,” said Alberto Saldamando of Indigenous Environmental Network.
The launch of the global call comes just one month before the trial is expected to begin on New York State’s investigation into Exxon Mobil. On Sunday and Monday, demonstrations outside a fossil fuel industry events in New York City included a strong call for industry accountability.
“Some of the biggest and dirtiest corporations on the planet are a huge contributor to the climate crisis. We will stand up to those who are destroying the planet and harming communities with impunity. We will push for a transformation of our energy, transport, food and economic systems,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy program coordinator at Friends of the Earth International
The call was organized by the following organizations: ActionAid, Alliance For Food Sovereignty in Africa, Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory, Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth International, Global Forest Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network, Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement, Platforma Boliviana Frente al Cambio Climático, Colectivo Viento Sur, and War on Want.