Climate and Environment

House lawmakers file climate accountability bill

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
House lawmakers file climate accountability bill
An aerial view shows flood-inundated houses at Capitol Hills in Alibagu, Ilagan city, Isabela province on October 31, 2022, after Tropical Storm Nalgae hit the region.

MANILA, Philippines — House lawmakers filed a bill that seeks to establish a legal framework to address loss and damage from climate change impacts, and hold those responsible for driving the crisis accountable.

The proposed Climate Accountability (CLIMA) Act, which was filed a week ahead of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai, is dubbed by the bill’s authors and climate groups as the first of its kind to officially recognize the concept of corporate climate accountability by a state.

The bill also outlines measures to establish mechanisms for seeking reparations. 

The authors of the proposed measure stressed that a law that guarantees legal remedy for human rights violations related to climate issues is “necessary and urgent” as the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt.

“Without a legal framework to address loss and damage from climate change impacts, corporations will continue to defend and promote their unbridled burning of fossil fuels,” House Bill 9609 read. 

A landmark report released by the Commission on Human Rights in 2022 said that businesses and governments have moral obligations to address the climate crisis. The CHR report, however, is not legally binding. 

The bill was introduced by Reps. Edgar Chatto (Bohol), Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong (Negros Oriental), Fernando Cabredo (Albay), Anna Victoria Veloso-Tuazon (Leyte), Christian Tell Yap (Tarlac), and Jose Manuel Alba (Bukidnon).

Corporate accountability

If passed, the bill will mandate businesses to prevent and address possible climate harms their operations may cause, and reduce their planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

They will have the responsibility to submit climate-related financial disclosures, measure and analyze their emissions, take steps to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change, protect human rights in their operations, and monitor those affected by climate impacts.

Businesses will be held accountable for negligence resulting from their contribution to worsening extreme weather events or slow-onset events.

The proposed legislation also seeks to penalize businesses who commit greenwashing or the conveyance of false information on the environmental soundness of their products and services, deny climate change, and breach the threshold for greenhouse gas emissions. 

Those who engage in greenwashing and climate denialism will be fined an amount equivalent to 15% of their gross income. The collected penalty will be directed to the Climate Change Reparations Fund. 

“Corporations have known the impact of their business on the environment for decades, yet they continue to engage in defensive tactics and greenwashing to deflect responsibility for the climate crisis,” Chatto, one of the bill’s authors, said. 

Any real party in interest or survivors of climate change may seek redress for harm caused by non-compliance of business entities. 

Meanwhile, businesses that adhere to due diligence standards and contribute to the transition to clean energy will be recognized by the government through a tax credit regime.

Climate reparations

The bill also aims to establish the Climate Change Reparations Fund for the financing of the claims approved by the Climate Change Reparations Board. 

Claims may take the form of compensation for economic and non-economic harms, technology transfers, capacity building, financial support, relocation, and recovery and rehabilitation measures. 

Debates over the fundamentals of the loss and damage fund, which was set up to help vulnerable countries cope with the consequences of the climate crisis, are expected to take center stage in the COP28 later this month.

Organizations such as Greenpeace Philippines and the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center lauded the filing of the bill as a welcome development. 

“This pioneering pending legislation shifts the burden of the climate crisis to the very entities that cause it,” said Ryan Roset, LRC’s direct legal services coordinator.

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