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PSB et al. v. Brazil (on deforestation and human rights)

Jurisdiction: Federal Supreme Court


Principle law(s): Plan to Control Illegal Deforestation and Recovery of Native Vegetation (PPCDAm and PPCerrado)


Side A: Partido Socialista Brasileiro and six others (Individual)


Side B: Brazil (Government)


Core objectives: Whether Brazil's failure to curb deforestation and resulting climate change violates fundamental constitutional rights of indigenous peoples and current and future generations.


Summary
On November 11, 2020, seven political parties in Brazil (Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB) and six others) brought an action against the federal government for violating fundamental constitutional rights by failing to implement the national deforestation policy, and thereby contributing to dangerous climate change. The political parties, organized by a coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), allege that by failing to implement Brazil's Action Plan for Prevention and Control of the Legal Amazon Deforestation (PPCDAm), the federal government violated the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples and present and future generations. 

The suit demands that the federal government and its bodies implement the PPCDAm and suggests the Court set benchmarks for compliance including: (i) meet an 80% deforestation rate reduction relative to the 1996-2005 average by 2021, (ii) enact a temporary moratorium on all deforestation until 2022 if that rate cannot be reached by 2021, and (iii) increase the power of federal authorities to set penalties for illegal deforestation. 

The coalition of NGOs organized the lawsuit and compiled evidence of the government's suspended enforcement of the PPDCAm. According to the NGOs, Brazil saw a 34% increase in the Amazon deforestation rate between 2018 and 2019. Due to procedural requirements for such an action alleging the violation of a fundamental constitutional right, heard directly at the Federal Supreme Court (STF), the NGOs organized seven political parties to bring the case. 

On November 24, 2020, the STF's Minister Carmém Lúcia received the complaint and granted several request from NGOs for admission as amicus curiae. Subsequently, the Attorney General's Office requested the rejection of the claim. On September 20, 2021, the Attorney General argued that an Action for Noncompliance with a Fundamental Precept (ADPF) cannot impose on the Executive Branch how to manage illegal deforestation in the Amazon Forest. In addition, the Attorney General argued that both the Presidency and the Ministry of the Environment are taking the appropriate measures to preserve the Amazon. As such, the requests are incompatible and must be considered unfounded by the court.

On March 18, 2022, the minister and president of the STF, Luiz Fux, admitted seven environmental cases on the agenda for March 30, 2022 (including two climate cases, this case and ADO59). This move by the STF is considered historical, and was called the "green agenda."

On April 6, 2022, following Supreme Federal Court (STF) minister Cármen Lúcia´s decision that the Federal Government should resume the PPCDAm (Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon Region) within the framework of ADPF 760, Minister André Mendonça requested further information, effectively putting the brakes on the ruling. In addition to determining that the Federal Government should set out a plan to combat deforestation following the guidelines of the PPCDAm (Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon Region) within the next 60 days, the Minister-Rapporteur also took the stance that in the ruling of ADPF 760 and ADO 54, the STF should collaborate in strengthening government organs linked to the social-environmental agenda, like Funai (National Indian Foundation), Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) and ICMBio (the Chico Mendes Institute of Conservation of Biodiversity), given the shortcomings that exist at the government level. She went on to acknowledge the “situation of unconstitutional aspects regarding illegal deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest and the failure of the Brazilian state concerning the role of protecting an ecologically balanced environment”. The minister further stated that “the right to an ecologically balanced environment is one of the human rights included in agreements that Brazil has committed to”, not only in the Constitution but also in international pacts.
Case documents

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