Commentary: Climate change & human rights: Impact of the Amazon climate change lawsuit

Author: César Rodríguez-Garavito, Dejusticia, on Open Global Rights, Published on: 30 April 2019

"Climate change and human rights: lessons from litigation for the Amazon", 25 Apr 2019

It has been one year since the historic ruling of the Colombian Supreme Court on climate change and deforestation in the Amazon. In consideration of a lawsuit filed by 25 boys, girls and young people whom I represented in court, along with colleagues from Dejusticia, the Supreme Court ruled that the Amazon is an entity subject of rights. This ruling gave the Colombian state detailed orders to fulfill its pledge made in Paris during the Climate Change Summit in 2015 to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2020...

This decision and the recognition of the human rights of future generations—with whom the Supreme Court ordered the government to create an Intergenerational Pact for the Life of the Amazon—raised the interest of international academic and activists’ circles.

As I wrote elsewhere, human rights studies and practice have been more occupied with litigation—which goes from petitioning to the final ruling—than following up the implementation of the judicial decision. The same has happened around the world in the emerging field of climate change litigation. To reverse that trend, we have undertaken steps with the young plaintiffs of the Colombian case to push for compliance with the court ruling. What lessons can be learned for future climate change litigation from what happened in the past year?...

The first lesson is that lawsuits have become an increasingly frequent route for citizens’ claims to urgent action on climate change. Since the decision of the Supreme Court, similar others have followed. Australian and American courts have held that the negative impacts of climate change can be the basis for denying licenses to carbon-intensive and oil projects...

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