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Argentina

Organización de Ambientalistas Organizados v. Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development

Jurisdiction: Federal Court of Mar del Plata N. 2


Side A: Organización de Ambientalistas Organizados (Ngo)


Side B: Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (Government)


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 the Southern Right Whale and climate change.


Summary
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 7, 2022, the NGO ‘Organización de Ambientalistas Organizados’ sued the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development for its approval of the offshore exploration activities. Initially, the claim was presented as a habeas corpus for the protection of the Southern Right Whale and its habitats, but after the dismissal of the claim by the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal admitted it and asked for its conversion into a constitutional collective action (amparo ambiental colectivo). The main focus of the new claim remained the protection of the Southern Right Whale, but also introduced concerns regarding the climate impacts of the project. On these issues, the lawsuit refers to the urgency raised by the IPCC reports, the project’s incompatibility with the available carbon budget (citing the 2021 International Energy Agency reports), the Argentinian NDC, and, more generally, the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. 

On January 14, 2022, the claim was combined by the Federal Court of Mar del Plata N. 2 with another lawsuit (Godoy, Ruben v. Estado Nacional) not grounded on climate concerns. 

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. 
Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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