A statement on Tuesday by civil society groups backing the complainants said several Indonesian locals have filed a lawsuit against Holcim, the Swiss multinational. The cement making giant has been sued on charges of climate destruction. The residents of Pari Island have accused the world’s top cement producer of doing “too little” to reduce carbon emissions.
In a statement released by a spokesperson, it stated that climate change is the priority for Holcim and is imperative in their strategy.
Using individual company cases as a means of tackling climate change is not an effective approach, said the spokesperson.
The civil case was first initiated in July last year by four residents of the Indonesian island of Pari, which has been repeatedly flooded as global warming has increased sea levels.
The complaint was formally filed with the Zug court on Jan. 30 after informal negotiations failed in October, according to Lorenz Kummer of Swiss Church Aid (HEKS/EPER).
A statement says Holcim was sued for proportional compensation after the case was filed. This is the first case filed against a Swiss company.
Non-governmental organizations [NGOs] supporting the plaintiffs said in a statement that Holcim is one of the world’s major producers of carbon emissions and is the “carbon major” of Switzerland. This is the reason why the company has been sued by the Indonesians.
As of now, Holcim has declined to make any further comments on the case.
Fight of the people against climate change: a race against time
Due to the rising sea-levels, the prospects for human habitation on the island are bleak. It is expected that most parts of the island will be submerged by 2050 due to rising sea levels.
Currently, the highest point of Pari is 1.5 meters above sea level. The constant rise of water caused by climate change has been jeopardizing the livelihoods of island residents, who are experiencing increasingly severe flooding more regularly.
Pari’s citizens are not content with simply accepting the end of their homeland, and hence, they are taking action in Switzerland against Holcim, one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.
The case is known as Four Islanders of Pari v. Holcim. The main occupation of these four inhabitants is fishing.
The islanders are supported in their fight for “Call for Climate Justice” by three NGOs, viz. HEKS/EPER (Switzerland), the European Center for Constitutional and European Rights (ECCHR), and WALHI (Indonesia).
According to the press release, the plaintiffs have requested:
- proportional compensation for climate change-related damages already incurred on Pari
- reduction of CO2 emissions by 43 % by 2030 in order to prevent future damage to the island
- financial contribution to adaptation measures on Pari to reduce the severity of damages in future
In this claim, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is combined with compensation for damages. This is a unique and unprecedented demand.
The threats posed by the rising sea levels also infringe on the basic human rights of the people of the island, and hence this case has been termed ‘groundbreaking’ by climate and human rights activists.