Four Indonesians file climate litigation against Holcim
1 February 2023 – The conciliation hearing in October 2022 concluded without results. Now, four residents of the Indonesian island Pari, the existence of which is under threat, are taking the Swiss cement corporation to court. They are demanding compensation for climate damages they have suffered, a financial contribution to flood-protection measures, as well as the rapid reduction of Holcim’s CO2 emissions. For the first time, a Swiss company must answer for its role in contributing to climate change in court. The world market leader in the cement branch is doing too little to reduce its emissions so that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees – and its actions come too late. This is substantiated in a new analysis on Holcim’s climate strategy.
Pak Arif’s home, the Indonesian island Pari, was flooded on five separate occasions last year. Water had already forced its way into his house in winter 2021, causing major damage. “It gets worse every year,” says Arif. To the 52-year-old mechanic, the reason is clear: “Because of climate change, the sea levels are rising, and during storms, our flat island has become increasingly flooded.” This threatens his livelihood, as well as those of all 1500 people living on Pari – even though they have done nothing to contribute to the warming of the climate.
Arif, Asmania, Bobby and Edi are fighting back against this injustice. Last year in July, the four residents of Pari filed an application for conciliation in Zug, the location of Holcim’s headquarters. But, during the conciliation proceedings, Holcim made no indication that it was willing to address their concerns. Therefore, on 30 January 2023, the four complainants filed a complaint against the corporation on behalf of the entire island at the Cantonal Court of Zug. “Our existence is under threat,” says Asmania. “We want those responsible to now finally take action.”
The first climate litigation against a Swiss company
The complainants are demanding proportional compensation for climate damages they have suffered and for Holcim to contribute financially to flood-protection measures. In addition, they are demanding that Holcim reduce its CO2 emissions by 43% by 2030 and by 69% by 2040 when compared to the company’s 2019 emissions. This would be in alignment with the target established in the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. HEKS, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Indonesian environmental organization WAHLI are supporting the complaint by the four Indonesians with the campaign “Call for Climate Justice.”
The submission of the complaint from Indonesia heralds the first formal civil proceedings in Switzerland against a corporation for its contribution to climate change. The four Indonesian complainants are suing for infringement on personality rights (ZGB 28) resulting from past, ongoing and future excessive CO2 emissions on the part of Holcim, which have led and will lead to damages (OR 41) on the island. Additionally, a study by the Global Climate Forum (in German only) now proves that the damages on Pari island are caused by global warming.