Fossil companies can be held responsible for deadly typhoons

“Conscious suspicion of science.” It makes the most polluting companies in the world. Coal, oil, gas and cement producers are thwarting efforts to shift the world to clean energy.

This is the verdict of the Philippine Human Rights Commission, which investigated the devastating typhoon Haiyan. One of the worst storms ever killed more than 5,000 people in 2013. Nearly 700,000 residents lost their homes, according to UN estimates, more than 11 million Filipinos were affected.

The inquiry started seven years ago, triggered by petitions from citizens and NGOs. The involvement of the 47 most polluting companies in the world in the burgeoning climate crisis has been investigated. The rapid warming of the atmosphere is causing extreme weather and increasingly severe storms like Haiyan. The conclusion of the Commission on Human Rights is firm: these companies can be held responsible for violating human rights. They do this by ignoring the science – known to them for a long time – in their business operations, deliberately continuing their polluting activities and investing in fossil resources to this day.

Companies are not innocent spectators

The Philippine study is based on the rationale behind successful climate change. Such as the Urgenda case, which made it clear that the government must protect human rights harmed by climate change. The ruling in the Environmental Defense case against Shell, which requires the company to reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030, was also an inspiration for the Philippines. Companies are not innocent spectators who can wait for the government to tell them what to do, the judge ruled.

Whether the industry is still the result of the Philippine effort is highly questionable. The top of dirty companies showed no interest in collaborating with the study. Not a single company gave it a try, though the researchers wanted to travel city and country for it. Some companies protested: The Human Rights Commission has nothing to say about us. Others simply argued that climate change has nothing to do with human rights violations.

The relationship with society is, to say the least, unstable. As if the deepeners of coal, oil and gas stand outside and do their own thing. Yet they now earn gold from society thanks to the high energy prices. Former United States Secretary of State Robert Reich, an active supporter of inequality, said this week on Twitter. Exxon Mobil doubles profits to $ 5.5 billion. Chevron’s profits rise to $ 6.2 billion. BP’s quarterly profit is the highest in ten years, Shells a record. “Who pays for it?” asks Reich. ‘You and me’, is the answer. ‘Why not tax on profit power?’

Compensation for rising cost of living

So does Italy’s Prime Minister and former ECB leader Mario Draghi. Energy companies have to pay 25 percent extra profit tax. The proceeds will compensate lower-income citizens and small businesses for rising living costs. Part of the money will also go to cheaper tickets in public transport and a faster conversion to clean energy.

At the presentation of Shell’s latest quarterly figures, CEO Ben van Beurden was asked about the high profits. Nor is it just about ‘you and me’ filling the coffers of multinational corporations, which is a war that drives up prices. But, said Van Beurden, “it’s not just a war gain, as some people say”. The profit is “also the result of strong business performance”. And prices were already rising before the war. Could Shell have a role if society is burdened by sky-high energy prices? No, says Van Beurden. – It requires a response from the government.

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