New Publication: Climate Litigation
Updated: Jan 24
Climate change litigation, or simply “climate litigation,” has been growing in importance over the past decades. This becomes especially critical for the Philippines in view of its climate change vulnerability, due to its high exposure to natural hazards (typhoons, landslides, floods, droughts), dependence on climate-sensitive natural resources, and vast coastlines where all major cities and the majority of the level rise, increased frequency of extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and extreme rainfall.
Despite the obvious vulnerability of the Philippines to climate change, there is a dearth of cases that directly deal with climate litigation. Two cases have mentioned it in the text of the decisions, thereby showing that climate change is a matter of judicial notice.
In MMDA v. Concerned Citizens of Manila Bay, Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. stated: “The need to address environmental pollution, as a cause of climate change, has of late gained the attention of the international community. Media have finally trained their sights on the ill effects of pollution, the destruction of forests and other critical habitats, oil spills, and the unabated improper disposal of garbage. And rightly so, for the magnitude of environmental destruction is now on a scale few ever foresaw and the wound no longer simply heals by itself. But amidst hard evidence and clear signs of a climate crisis that need bold action, the voice of cynicism, naysayers, and procrastinators can still be heard.”
Similarly, in the Saguisag v. Ochoa, the Supreme Court mentioned that “[t]he Philippines is one of the countries most directly affected and damaged by climate change.”
For a country like the Philippines—one of the most megadiverse countries in the world, rich in natural resources, and home to unique flora and fauna— environmental laws and measures to protect nature are crucial. This becomes more of a challenge for a developing country with 110 million people, with a government policy bent on simulating the past economic miracles of highly developed countries through an all-cost industrialization, and the need to later on balance this desire to the needs of future generations.
Much of the current focus of climate change litigation in the country is on small and isolated cases, couched generally as “environmental” cases, and premised on a broad range of legal theories, usually seeking redress based on tort and quasi delict, without necessarily examining the broader context of history, jurisprudence, and policy development. This paper thus attempts to navigate that broader landscape by examining policies, jurisprudence, and current cases, and the unique circumstances that led to their development.
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