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National inquiry into the human rights impacts of climate change hears evidence on the legal obligations of directors

CCLI Canadian Convenor Professor Cynthia Williams has given evidence at the New York hearing of the world’s first national inquiry into the human rights impacts of climate change.

The fact-finding inquiry by the Philippines Commission on Human Rights is investigating the potential human rights impacts on Filipino citizens of the carbon-intensive businesses of 47 multinational corporations, including Exxon, Shell, and Chevron.

Professor Williams, Osler Chair in Business Law at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, gave evidence at the hearing with Professor David Estrin, Co-Academic Director of the Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Professors Williams and Estrin outlined the legal obligations of officers and directors of the ‘carbon majors’ and their investors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid climate change related human rights impacts to vulnerable communities. They presented actionable recommendations to the Commissioners on measures to reduce and potentially avoid human rights impacts in the planning, financing and approval of new or expanded carbon plans and projects.

Professor Williams said: “Carbon majors must commit to decarbonise and diversify their primary energy supply and product mix. This commitment should come from the top. Legal duties require directors to turn their minds to climate change and evaluate the risks and opportunities based on the scientific evidence and a reasonable evaluation of the specifics regarding their industry, geographical locations, and policy frameworks.”

Read the actionable recommendations to the Commissioners here.