Greenpeace Argentina et. al., v. Argentina et. al.
Jurisdiction: Federal Court of Mar del Plata N. 2
Side A: Greenpeace Argentina et. al.
Side B: Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina
Side B: Argentinian National State
Core objectives: Whether the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development decision to approve the offshore exploration of fossil fuels must be halted and declared null and void for its impacts on climate change.
On December 30, 2021, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development published Resolution 436/2021 approving the implementation of an offshore seismic acquisition project submitted by the Norwegian company Equinor. This approval of offshore fossil fuel exploration resulted in several lawsuits seeking an injunction to halt the project and an order declaring the approval’s regulations null and void. Some of those lawsuits are, partially, grounded on climate concerns. Other relevant cases can be found here and here.
On January 13, 2022, a group of NGOs filed a constitutional collective action (amparo colectivo ambiental) against the Argentinian National State and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development for its approval of the offshore exploration activities. This case presents the climate impacts of the projects as the main grounds for its claims. Among others, plaintiffs mention that the project breaches national and international climate commitments and affects intergenerational equity, that the NDC to the Paris Agreement is insufficient, that the State is responsible not only for emissions within its territory but also for emissions arising from future fossil fuels exports, and that the Environmental Impact Assessment is flawed because it did not consider climate impacts.
Notably, this claim refers to high-profile climate cases in other jurisdictions, like Urgenda (the Netherlands), Neubauer (Germany), Sharma (Australia); Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (South Africa); Gray and Gloucester Resources (Australia) and Greenpeace Nordic (Norway).
On January 14, 2022, all the three climate lawsuits against the offshore exploration activities (together with other non-climate related cases) were combined, and the court will hand down a single judgment for all.
On February 11, 2022, the Federal Court of Mar del Plata ordered a halt to the fossil fuel exploration activities. The order does not make any mention of climate change concerns. Instead, the judge focuses on failures regarding procedural rights (participation and information) with explicit mention of the Escazú Agreement, lack of strategic environmental assessment, and possible risk to marine biodiversity. In the decision, the precautionary principle plays a key role. On February 15, 2022, the government filed an appeal to the injunction order. In its appeal, the government is also asking for the removal of the judge from the case. On February 18, 2022, a different judge (Federal Court of Mar del Plata N.4) allowed the appeal to proceed with suspensive effect. That means that the exploration activity can go ahead until the Federal Court of Appeal revises the injunction order.