MANILA, Philippines — A survivor of Super Typhoon Rai called on the youth to take a stand against climate injustices, stressing that it is his generation that will bear the brunt of climate change’s catastrophic effects. 

Frank Nichol Melgar Marba, a 29-year-old teacher from the Dinagat Islands in southern Philippines, was one of the eight plaintiffs who recently filed a lawsuit against French multinational oil giant TotalEnergies.

He, along with other young people impacted by extreme weather events from France, Pakistan, Greece, Australia, Belgium, and Zimbabwe, sued TotalEnergies’ board of directors and main shareholders for their contribution to the climate crisis, which has resulted in loss of lives and damaged ecosystems. 

“I hope that we will not remain silent. We have to tell our story. We have to share our thoughts and do our part as well,” Marba said in an interview with Climate Tracker Asia. 

“Because if we just keep ourselves silent in the face of all the injustices we’re experiencing, the question is, who else will speak up for us? Who will stand up against this company? I mean, who will file a lawsuit? We are the ones who will suffer,” he added.

Marba was joined by other young people impacted by extreme weather events in France, Pakistan, Greece, Australia, Belgium, and Zimbabwe in the climate litigation. 

Typhoon survivor’s fight

The coastal community of Barangay Melgar in the town of Basilisa, Dinagat Islands, demand for climate polluters pay up for the loss and damages they have endured from Super Typhoon Odette, and still enduring because they still haven’t fully recovered from the typhoon’s wrath. (Greenpeace Philippines)

Marba experienced the devastating effects of climate change firsthand when cyclone Rai, locally known as Odette, struck the Philippines in December 2021. 

Rai was one of the most destructive typhoons to hit the Philippines, causing P51.8 billion in damage to infrastructure and agriculture and affecting millions of Filipinos across several regions. 

Over two years after the storm, Marba said the residents’ livelihoods never fully recovered. 

Beyond losing their homes, they still grapple with the trauma and mental distress. Their memories of Rai come flooding back whenever they hear of typhoons. Even his grandmother still shakes in fear with any news of an approaching cyclone. 

Marba said his experience compelled him to hold polluters accountable, recognizing the increasing likelihood of similar extreme weather events like Rai. 

“We demand TotalEnergies to pay not just for the destruction of our properties, but more importantly for the loss of our livelihood and the trauma that we are still dealing with up to now,” said Marba, who also serves as a member of his village’s youth council.

Marba expressed hope that fighting climate change through legal means can make a significant difference. 

“This will inspire other youth in the Philippines, especially those living in the most vulnerable sectors of our country, particularly those residing in coastal communities who are severely affected, to speak up, share their stories, and take action,” Marba said.

“It’s important to educate those who are unaware or less educated,” he added.

The case

The coastal community of Barangay Melgar unfurl a banner that reads “Make Climate Polluters Pay” in the town of Basilisa, Dinagat Islands, demanding for climate polluters to pay up for the loss and damages they have endured from Super Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) back in December 2021, and still enduring because they still haven’t fully recovered from the typhoon’s wrath. (Greenpeace Philippines)

The transnational climate lawsuit against Total Energies, the world’s sixth biggest carbon emitter, was filed with the Paris Criminal Court on May 18, 2024. 

The complaint targets TotalEnergies’ board, its CEO Mr. Patrick Pouyanné, and its main shareholders, including BlackRock and Norges Bank, who approved climate strategies incompatible with limiting global warming to 2°C, and voted against resolutions aimed at aligning the group’’s climate approach with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

They face lawsuits for deliberately endangering the lives of others, involuntary manslaughter, neglecting to address a disaster, and damaging biodiversity. Each offense is punishable by at least one to five years in jail and fines. 

Additionally, the case aims to halt fossil fuel expansion to prevent irreversible environmental damage.

The prosecutor will have discretion to open a judicial investigation and to determine the roster of individuals facing prosecution. 

Greenpeace campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin emphasized that oil and gas companies like TotalEnergies must pay for the adverse effects of climate change.

“The world shouldn’t let climate polluters get away scot-free, and governments need to be supporting communities in their quest for justice,” Benosa-Llorin said.

The climate crisis is fueling a wave of lawsuits worldwide, putting oil and gas companies, other corporations, and governments under growing legal pressure.