Indonesian islanders file Holcim climate complaint

Indonesian islanders file Holcim climate complaint

Residents of the Indonesian island of Pulau Pari want Swiss cement giant Holcim to compensate them for climate-related damage
Residents of the Indonesian island of Pulau Pari want Swiss cement giant Holcim to compensate them for climate-related damage. Photo: ROMEO GACAD / AFP/File
Source: AFP

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Residents of the Indonesian island of Pulau Pari have filed a complaint against the Swiss cement giant Holcim, demanding compensation for climate damage, the NGO backing them announced Wednesday.

The island, which risks disappearing under water, flooded five times last year, according to Swiss Church Aid (HEKS), a non-governmental organisation which advocates for climate justice.

The complaint requests that Holcim pay compensation for the damage already caused on the island and finance flood protection measures on the picturesque island north of Jakarta.

They also demand that the Swiss group rapidly reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.

"For the first time, a Swiss company must answer for its role in contributing to climate change in court," HEKS said in a statement.

"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 (Celsius) -- and its actions come too late."

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In July, three men and one woman from the island filed an application for conciliation in Zug, the Swiss canton home to Holcim's headquarters following its 2015 merger with the French industrial company Lafarge.

"But, during the conciliation proceedings, Holcim made no indication that it was willing to address their concerns," HEKS said.

Therefore, on Tuesday, the four islanders filed a civil complaint against Holcim on behalf of the entire island at the Cantonal Court of Zug.

In 2019, Holcim sold its Indonesian operations to local cement company Semen Indonesia.

In a statement, Holcim said climate action was at the heart of its strategy.

"We do not believe that court cases focused on single companies are an effective mechanism to tackle the global complexity of climate action," it said.

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Climate-related litigation against governments, fossil fuel firms and a growing array of other companies has surged in recent years.

Of the 2,000 or so legal cases filed since 1986, 475 were started since the beginning of 2020, according to a report last year by experts from the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics.

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Source: AFP

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