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Indonesians striving for climate justice are targeting the Swiss concrete giant

ISLAND OF PARI (INDONESIA) – Fisherman Mustagfirin sits near a wall of stacked rocks and gazes out to sea from the tiny Indonesian island of Pari, wondering if his home will last long.

His battered wooden boat is anchored just offshore, where trees and statues that once lined the beach are now partially submerged some 40 kilometers north of the capital Jakarta.

“I’m very sad and scared because I know that the island of Pari could disappear in the next 10 or 20 years,” the 52-year-old told AFP.

Environmentalists have said most of the 42-hectare island could subside by 2050 due to rising sea levels.

Demanding justice, residents on the island last month sued Swiss cement giant Holcim over its emissions.

They allege that the world’s largest cement maker is responsible for climate-related losses and damage in a case that could be a milestone for claimants from developing countries taking on industrial giants.

Environmental lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies have surged in recent years – but this is the first case Indonesians have filed against a foreign company over climate-related damage.

It is also the first case in which a Swiss company is being sued for its alleged role in climate change.

“Winning this case could inspire the spirit of other islanders affected by climate change to demand justice,” said Puspa Dewy, environmentalist at Indonesian NGO Walhi.

This spirit of activism can be seen on the quaint, flat island, where posters and graffiti of “Save Pulau Pari” and “Climate Justice Now” are plastered.

– concrete action –

Residents say since 2019, saltwater flooding has risen by up to 1.3 meters (4.2 feet), hitting homes and damaging livelihoods.

The floods used to happen twice a year, but now they hit the island more than a dozen times a year, they say.

Swiss Church Aid (HEKS), an NGO helping islanders, said Pari has lost 11 percent of its area over the past 11 years.

“Where will we live? My ancestors, my parents, my children and even my grandchildren were all born here,” said Mustagfirin, who shares a common name like many Indonesians.

He is one of four residents who are calling on Holcim to reduce its emissions in the civil lawsuit in Zug, the company’s headquarters.

Another is mother-of-three Asmania, who lost her seaweed farm to floods and worries about her fisherman husband, who is scouring the sea for ever-smaller catches in extreme weather.

“We want to send a signal to other corporations: Please don’t just think about profit anymore,” said the 39-year-old.

They demand 3,600 Swiss francs ($3,800) each for damage and protective measures such as mangroves.

According to HEKS, a decision could take four years if it reaches Switzerland’s highest court.

The islanders targeted Holcim because no one had ever taken action against a major cement company, said environmentalist Dewy.

Cement production is responsible for around eight percent of global CO2 emissions.

Last year, representatives of the islanders met with Holcim in an arbitration process that was unsuccessful, prompting the plaintiffs to file their lawsuit.

Holcim, which sold its Indonesian operations to a local concrete company in 2019, told AFP it cares about the climate but disagreed with islanders.

“We do not believe that court cases focused on individual companies are an effective mechanism to address the global complexities of climate protection,” it said.

– ‘We lose our earnings’ –

Pari depends on the fisheries and tourists who lure it for quick escapes from the crowded and heavily polluted capital.

Homestays and souvenir shops can be seen on the island of 1,500, but rising tides mean more booking cancellations.

“If the flood comes, we will lose our income. It contributes to our suffering,” said resident Edi Mulyono.

His frustration motivated him to join the lawsuit, hoping the case would send a signal to other companies to act more responsibly.

“If Holcim takes responsibility, other large corporations will think that they are not the only ones living on this earth,” said the 37-year-old.

At the beach house of welder Arif Pujianto, his motorcycle was rusted by salt water and the panels on his wooden house were rotting.

“I live in concern. I’m afraid the water will suddenly rise when I sleep,” plaintiff Pujianto said, showing AFP a video of his wife standing in their flooded kitchen.

Mustagfirin and his fellow fishermen regularly take their boats out to plant mangroves in a desperate bid to slow erosion.

The islanders also erect puny obstacles to the tides, such as building cairns to prevent flooding.

But they believe legal obstacles may offer their best hope.

“Please reduce your emissions so you can help save us,” he said.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t wait for our island to sink and we’ll disappear.”

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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