Baihua Caiga et. al., v. PetroOriental S.A.
Jurisdiction: Family, Women, and Children Judicial Unit from Francisco de Orellana Canton of Ecuador
Principle law(s): Constitution of Ecuador
Side A: Baihua Caiga et. al
Side B: PetroOriental S.A.
Core objectives: Whether gas flaring resulting from a private company’s oil extraction contributes to climate change and associated violations of the rights of nature and the rights of indigenous peoples living in the vicinity of the operation’s site.
On December 10, 2020, Juana Mintare Baihua Caiga, Pego Enomenga Enomenga, and Juan Pablo Enomenga, as members of the Waorani Nation located in the Miwaguno community, alongside the NGOs Acción Ecológica, Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las Operaciones de Texaco (UDAPT), and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), filed a constitutional injunction called ‘acción de protección’ against the Chinese oil company PetroOriental S.A. The constitutional lawsuit was filed before a Judicial Unit in the canton of Francisco de Orellana, in the Amazon region.
The plaintiffs argued that the gas flaring emanating from an oil concession operated by PetroOriental S.A. is an act that causes constitutional rights violations, specifically because it emits greenhouse gases (GHG) that contribute to climate change. Applicants claimed that climate change produces irregular and unpredictable floods, disturbance in the natural cycles of plants, loss of ancestral knowledge, droughts and other climatic phenomena, all of which have human rights implications. Based on provisions from the Ecuadorian Constitution, national environmental law, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and case law from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, applicants stressed that the defendant had violated several human rights. These included (i) the rights of nature as GHG emissions altered the carbon cycle, (ii) the right to enjoy a healthy and ecologically balanced environment as climate change breaks down the ecological balance, (iii) the right to food because applicants have seen their food security and food sovereignty diminished, (iv) the right to water because droughts and floods are becoming more extreme and unpredictable, limiting access, quality, quantity and availability of water, (v) the right to health because the scarcity of food and traditional medicines affects the applicants’ wellbeing, (vi) the right to land and territory because the applicants’ ability to enjoy natural resources through ancestral practices has been limited, (vii) and the right to life and a dignified life because the applicants’ existence is threatened, and the minimum conditions to continue with their life projects are not met.
The plaintiffs requested that the court (i) declares that the constitutional rights mentioned were infringed, (ii) orders the prohibition of gas flaring where the defendant operates; and (iii) orders the defendant reparations by financing projects designed by the community to adapt to climate impacts in their territory.
On July 15, 2021, judge Cuacal Galarraga did not admit the constitutional action since the plaintiffs had not sufficiently demonstrated how the actions of the defendant violate the rights of nature or any constitutional right deriving therefrom.
Related laws and policies
Ecuador’s Constitution was approved in 2008 in a national referendum. After a decade long period of political instability, President Alfredo Palacio, the seventh President in nine years, called in 2005 for a popular consultation on the installation of a National Constituent Assembly to amend the ...