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Federal Public Ministry vs. Federal Union (Zoning of Sugar Cane)

Jurisdiction: 7th Federal Environmental and Agrarian Court of the Judiciary Section of Amazonas

Side A: Federal Public Ministry (Government)

Side B: Federal Union (Government)

Core objectives: Whether a government decree allowing for the expansion of sugarcane activities in the Amazon and Pantanal biomes violates the goals of the Paris Agreement.

On December 12, 2019, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) filed a public civil action, with a request for urgent relief, to hold the Federal Union responsible for issuing a presidential decree (no. 10.084/2019, which revoked Decree 6.961/2009) approving the agroecological zoning of sugarcane and requesting the National Monetary Council to establish norms for financing activities in the sugar-alcohol sector. The plaintiff alleges that, when editing the new Decree, the Union did not present technical or political reasons for the repeal of the previous rule. Furthermore, the decree can cause irreversible environmental damage to the Amazon biome and the ecosystem services produced by the forest, which implies potential national and global impacts, especially regarding the service of climate regulation and rain distribution. The plaintiff argues that the decree can make it difficult to demonstrate compliance with the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

The investigations that gave rise to the lawsuit were carried out in a civil inquiry that aimed to determine the legality of the release of sugarcane plantations in the Amazon, in the face of possible environmental damage resulting from the activity and the failure to adopt mitigating measures. The investigation arose out of a complaint by a researcher, based on scientific studies published in the journal Science, which demonstrated the economic and environmental consequences of allowing sugarcane cultivation in the Amazon and Pantanal biomes. The plaintiff request a granting a preliminary injunction for (i) the court to suspend the effects of Decree 10,084/2019, resuming the previous one, and (ii) that the Union refrain from issuing a new decree on this matter until it demonstrates, through technical and scientific studies, the plausibility of the measure in comparison with the duty to protect the environment. The plaintiff also requires, in a final request, to condemn the Union for material and collective moral damages. 

On February 29, 2020, the Federal Government replied and (i) defended the legality and constitutionality of Decree 10,084/2019, claiming that the new decree is in accordance with the provisions of the RenovaBio program and with new production techniques, and Brazil must double production and use of ethanol as automotive fuel to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, (ii) that the practice disciplined by the new decree must observe the environmental legal framework, especially environmental licensing, and (iii) the absence of objective responsibility of the State in reason due to lack of proof of damage. 

On April 20, 20202, the court granted precautionary measures - later partially suspended by Interlocutory Appeal 1012253-37.2020.4.01.0000. The court immediately suspended the effects of Decree 10.084/2019, until the Union proved, within 180 days from the technical studies, the scientific and non-impacting feasibility that motivated the new legislation and the revocation of the previous one for the involved biomes. The appeal refers to the determination of communication by environmental licensing agencies, federal, state and municipal, of the Legal Amazon for the authorization/licensing of sugarcane planting activities in the region to be prohibited. 

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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