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Institute of Amazonian Studies v. Brazil

Jurisdiction: Federal District Court of Curitiba

Principle law(s): Law 12.187/2009, establishing the National Policy on Climate Change (NPCC), regulated by Decree 7.390/2010,Plan to Control Illegal Deforestation and Recovery of Native Vegetation (PPCDAm and PPCerrado)

Side A: Instituto de Estudos Amazônicos - IEA (Ngo)

Side B: Brazil (Government)

Core objectives: Whether the Brazilian Constitution guarantees a fundamental right to a stable climate and whether the Brazilian government may be compelled to meet emission and deforestation reduction goals

On October 8, 2020, the Institute of Amazonian Studies (Instituto de Estudos Amazônicos - IEA) filed a Public Civil Action (class action) against the Federal Government of Brazil, seeking recognition of a fundamental right to a stable climate for present and future generations under the Brazilian Constitution, and seeking an order to compel the federal government to comply with national climate law. Plaintiffs allege that the federal government has failed to comply with its own action plans to prevent deforestation and mitigate and adapt to climate change, violating national law and fundamental rights. Plaintiffs assert that the government has failed to meet the Brazilian emissions targets set out in the Climate Change National Policy Act, a binding act passed by the Brazilian legislature. In order to meet these targets, the federal government issued a decree setting out specific action plans for preventing and controlling deforestation in various Brazilian biomes, as well as outlining sectoral plans for climate change mitigation and adaptation. A key part of this decree is the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in Legal Amazon (PPCDAm). By failing to meet critical targets in the PPCDAm and emissions targets, plaintiffs allege that the government is violating fundamental rights and national law. Plaintiffs seek an order to compel the federal government to comply with its existing policies, to reforest an area equivalent to what was deforested beyond the statutory limit, and to allocate sufficient budgetary resources for this purpose.

In July 2021, the Federal District Court of Curitiba issued an order rejecting jurisdiction and transferring the case to the 7th Federal Environmental and Agrarian Court of the Judiciary Section of Amazonas, on account of the alleged connection between this case and another case in that court. The other case involves a dispute over whether the government adequately implemented measures to combat those who put the Amazon forest and its ecological hotspots under threat during the Covid-19 pandemic. The lower court found that both lawsuits aimed at combating illegal deforestation in the Amazon and both referred to the PPCDAm, thus presenting “sufficient similarity” or “close connection” between the issues discussed, thereby “giving rise to an undue risk of conflicting solutions.” IEA appealed the transfer decision to the federal appellate court (TRF4). 

On August 20, 2021, the TRF4 (through a decision from the reporting judge) suspended the lower court decision to transfer the case and returned the case to the Federal District Court of Curitiba. The Court found that this case and the ecological hotspots case "present quite different typology and structure, specialized instruments and distinct political-legal approaches, in addition to the fact that their object, cause of action and demands do not coincide." The Court found that this case has as its central objective to put pressure on the legislative and executive branches to ensure a stable climate. The ecological hotspots case, on the other hand, addresses matters related to environmental law, and does not have a central theme linked to Brazilian climate legislation. The decision also includes a lengthy discussion of the unique nature and importance of climate litigation. On December 7, 2021, the third chamber of the appellate court confirmed the decision. 

On March 29, 2022, the TRF4 issued a decision delimiting the powers of the amicus curiae, given their inability to appeal the decisions of the process. The judge considered the request for the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) to act as amicus curiae in the case to be unfounded, given that the entity did not show interest. Furthermore, the decision called for a conciliation hearing and judgment of the case to be scheduled within 30 days and for the parties, the Attorney General's Office and the Federal Public Ministry to be summoned regarding the date and time of the hearing. It is worth mentioning that the order also deals with the possibility of the parties being accompanied by technicians in order to clarify any points on the subject. Two days after the dispatch of the order, the parties were summoned and the hearing was scheduled for May 18, 2022 in the courtroom of the 11th Federal Court.

Case documents

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from the Grantham Research Institute
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