Colombian Citizens File Climate Change Lawsuit Against The Government
A group of young citizens in Colombia have filed the first ever climate change litigation in South America. The lawsuit is in response to perceived government inaction at reversing deforestation in the country.
The 25 plaintiffs range in age from 7 to 25 years old, and represent the regions most affected by deforestation throughout Colombia. They are represented by César Augusto Rodríguez Garavito of the Colombian based social and environmental justice organisation, Dejusticia.
The lawsuit (in Spanish) names the president of Colombia, Juan Manual Santos, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as other national organisations. It also includes the local authorities from the municipalities of San Vicente del Caguán, Cartagena del Chairá, San José del Guaviare, Squid, La Macarena, Puerto Leguízamo, Solano, Uribe, El Retorno, Puerto Guzmán, Puerto Rico, Miraflores, Florencia and Vistahermosa; and to the administrative regions of Amazonas, Caquetá, Guainía, Guaviare, Putumayo and Vaupés.
Deforestation in Colombia is a major issue in both the Amazon and Andean regions as well as across the country. In 2016 deforestation increased by 44% according to the department of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), with Colombia losing 390 hectares of forest per day. Deforestation has also increased dramatically since the signing of the 2016 peace accord, and the ensuing demobilisation of the FARC guerillas. This is due to the fact more areas have now become accessible to illegal logging groups.
Reasons for the climate change lawsuit
Dejustucia describes the litigation as a violation of the plaintiffs constitutional rights, and gives the following reasoning for the lawsuit –
“At the 2015 climate change negotiations, Colombia reaffirmed its commitment to reach zero-net deforestation in the Colombian Amazon by the year 2020. Two years before the deadline, the government has yet to develop significant and effective actions to stop deforestation.”
The lawsuit has been filed in the civil division of Tribunal Superior del Distrito Judicial de Bogotá and uses article 79 of the Colombia Constitution, which guarantees every individual has the right to enjoy a healthy environment, and the community’s participation in the decisions that may affect it. It is also the duty of the State to protect the diversity and integrity of the environment, and to conserve areas of special ecological importance. Dejustucia states that “Given that all ecosystems are interconnected, deforestation in the Amazon not only affects those living in the region, but also elsewhere in Colombia.”
What are the plaintiffs asking in the lawsuit?
That the rights of citizens to enjoy a healthy environment, life, health, food and water are guaranteed.
That the national government, and associated authorities formulate an action plan within six months to reach zero-net deforestation in Colombia.
That the relevant authorities create an agreement with the plaintiffs, in which they commit to take effective and quantifiable measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sand to combat climate change in Colombia.
The Colombian Andes Project and Deforestation
At ABC Tourism we are involved with the Colombian Andes project to reverse deforestation in the Colombian Andean natural region. You can find information on our project page or at the Colombian Andes project website.