Four residents of Pari Island in the Thousand Islands regency, north of Jakarta, officially filed a lawsuit with a Swiss court on January 31, 2023, demanding that global cement company Holcim Ltd. of Switzerland be responsible for the environmental damage it has caused.
Each resident demanded Holcim to pay £3,000 (US$ 3,644) in compensation for mental harm and as a contribution to manage the climate emergency on the island, such as by planting mangroves and building flood walls. This is 0.42% of the actual costs of damages and adaptation measures, while Holcim needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 and 69% by 2040.
The Swiss court had mediated Pari Island residents and Holcim in October 2022 in a conciliation hearing. Since there has been no agreement, the residents decided to officially filed the lawsuit 3 months later, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said.
Pari Island has been famous as one of the tourist destinations for Jakartans but the island has slowly been sinking.
Holcim contributes to the sinking of Pari island
According to a report by the Climate Accountability Institute, Holcim has produced 7.26 billion tons (Gt) of cement from 1950 to 2021 and emitted an estimated 7.15 billion tons of carbon dioxide of scope 1, 2 and 3, with the largest contributor was from scope 1 that uses Calcining as fuel contribute 46.8% (3,342 MtCO2) from all sector.
Holcim reported gross emissions in 2021 of 156.3 million tons of CO2, of which direct scope 1 sources (such as process emissions, fuel combustion, etc) account for 119.3 MtCO2, scope 2 emissions (purchased electricity) of 7 MtCO2 and scope 3 supply chain emissions of 30 MtCO2.
This is up from its 2020 emissions of 146 MtCO2. The effect on its green gas emission was already spreading.
More lawsuits for environmental damage
The submerge of Pari island has affected their livelihood as most of the residents rely on tourism and fisheries. A large part of the island is likely to be submerged under water over the next few decades unless there are rapid reductions in global carbon emissions.
The four residents, who sued Holcim, accused the cement company for contributing to the rising sea level, causing their houses to submerge.
Holcim did not directly comment on the lawsuit. The company said in a statement that it “takes climate action very seriously” and has significantly reduced its CO2 footprint over the last decade.
Holcim is not the first company facing a lawsuit from the community due to its alleged environmental damage. British media theguardian.com reported a similar legal challenge by a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide against German energy firm RWE. The Netherlands’ Friend of The Earth (FoE) also filed a lawsuit against British multinational oil and gas company Shell in the Netherlands.
A recent report on worldwide trends in climate litigation showed that campaigners are increasingly targeting a wider range of corporate sectors. However, there has been very little legal action to date against the cement industry, even though it is one of the most polluting.