Ecuador: Plaintiffs to appeal ruling in favour of oil company PetroOriental, pursuing fight against climate change

(Paris, Quito) 20 April 2021 — Four months after a historic lawsuit was brought against Chinese oil company PetroOriental for its contribution to climate change in Ecuador, a ruling was issued yesterday by an Ecuadorian provincial court against the plaintiffs: Acción Ecológica, the Union of People Affected by Texaco (UDAPT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Waorani community of Miwaguno. We will not rest until justice is done in favour of the human rights of the Waorani people and the rights of nature, which are harmed by the local effects of climate change in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The lawsuit, filed on 10 December 2020 against the Chinese-owned company PetroOriental, alleges that the gas flares operated by the company in oil Block 14 contribute to climate change, thus disturbing the Miwaguno community’s way of life due to the local impacts of climate change on their land. The plaintiffs demanded that the company assume its share of responsibility for contributing to climate change and repair the damage caused by the local impact of this global phenomenon.

Cumandá Cuaical, constitutional judge of the Judicial Unit for the Family, Women, Children and Adolescents of Francisco de Orellana, ruled against the plaintiffs, so we will proceed to appeal the decision to continue demanding justice for the Miwaguno community and for nature, whose rights have been violated by the impacts of climate change to which PetroOriental’s Block 14 gas flares contribute.

We hope that the appeal courts in Ecuador will be able to deliver justice and recognise that the burning and consumption of fossil fuels – in this case the burning of gas through the flares operated by PetroOriental – contribute to climate change and are, by extension, responsible for the local impacts that this global phenomenon has on indigenous communities.

Ecuador, although not the main contributor to climate change, has a common and distinct responsibility and, by allowing gas to be flared or vented in oil operations, contributes to the climate crisis in a concrete and measurable way, despite the commitments it has made to tackle the issue.

PetroOriental, for its part, has as its parent companies CNPC and SINOPEC, Chinese state-owned companies whose government has recently committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. This commitment should also include Chinese-owned companies operating outside the country that contribute to climate change. In this regard, PetroOriental should close its gas flares to meet the commitments pledged by the Chinese government.

On 10 December 2020, FIDH and its member organisation in Ecuador, Acción Ecológica, alongside the Union of People Affected by Texaco (UDAPT) and members of the Waorani indigenous people, filed a constitutional protection action with the Ecuadorian state, demanding the protection of human rights and nature due to the impact of oil activities contributing to climate change and causing irreversible damage to the ecological balance, health, and quality of life of indigenous peoples.

This lawsuit is the first on climate change in Ecuador, and demonstrates to the world that justice may be done in the face of the suffering caused by climate crises.

The Miwaguno community has seen natural equilibrium eroded over the years – an equilibrium on which they depend to exist as an indigenous people. As attested to by community elders, the rainfall pattern has changed, rivers are rising as never before and flooding the community, they can no longer grow food as before, they no longer have all the medicinal plants they used to have, and other changes threaten the very existence of all the beings that inhabit their land.

All of this constitutes an ongoing violation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Ecuador and international human rights instruments.

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