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Laboratório do Observatório do Clima v. Minister of Environment and Brazil

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

Principle law(s): Law 12.187/2009, establishing the National Policy on Climate Change (NPCC), regulated by Decree 7.390/2010

Side A: Laboratório do Observatório do Clima (Ngo)

Side B: Minister of Environment and Brazil (Government)

Core objectives: Whether Brazil is violating fundamental rights and the national legal climate framework by decreasing mitigation targets in the country’s NDC.

On October 26, 2021, Observatório do Clima (OC), a network of 71 civil society organizations, filed a class action at the federal court of Amazonas against the Environmental Ministry and Brazilian government. The plaintiffs request that the National Climate Change Policy be updated according to the best available science, the seriousness of the climate emergency, and the latest IPCC report (AR6) to ensure the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by the Brazilian government consistent with a 1.5oC global warming scenario. The plaintiffs assert that climate change affects the constitutionally recognized right to a healthy environment, as well as fundamental rights such as the right to life, dignity, health, food, and housing, along with several recognized principles of international environmental law. The plaintiffs refer to the latest IPCC report to attest to the urgency of the case and the likely damages that will occur in the case of inaction from the Brazilian government.

Plaintiffs argue that, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Brazil has committed to a series of duties to mitigate climate change. Along with the existing legal climate framework in Brazil (i.e., the Law on Climate Change Policy and the National Climate Change Plan), this entails a duty from the Brazilian government to (i) take the necessary measures to predict, avoid and minimize the identified causes of climate change originating in the national territory; (ii) reduce anthropogenic GHG emissions in relation to their different sources; (iii) make the instruments of the national policy effective; (iv) present successive phases of the national plan; and (v) strive for the maximum possible ambition in reducing GHGs.

Brazil represents one of the world’s largest GHG emitters. Yet, the majority of emissions arise from deforestation rather than from energy sources and transportation. Through the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) published in 2016, Brazil committed to reducing GHG emissions by 37% by 2025 and by 43% by 2030 based on emissions from 2005. On December 2020, the government presented its updated NDC. The new NDC used the same percentage of emissions reductions, but altered the baseline quantity for calculating them, effectively making the second NDC less ambitious than the first. Additionally, Brazil had committed to reducing deforestation by 80% by 2030 in 2015 – this provision was deleted from the updated NDC. The plaintiffs assert that the updated NDC effectively violates the Paris Agreement and the national legal framework and the principle of non-regression.

On November 4, 2021, the court scheduled a preliminary conciliatory hearing for November 25, 2021.

Case documents

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