On 5 June 2020, four Brazilian political parties (Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB), Partido Socialismo e Liberdade, Partido dos Trabalhadores and Rede Sustentabilidade) filed a direct action of unconstitutionality for omission before the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (“Court”) related to the National Fund on Climate Change (“Climate Fund”) (case ADPF 708).
The Climate Fund was established in 2009 to direct its annually authorized budget to Brazilian projects that address the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change and its effects.
The plaintiffs claimed that the Brazilian Federal Administration kept the Climate Fund inoperative during 2019 and 2020. According to the plaintiffs, the Brazilian government’s inaction regarding the Climate Fund is a violation of its constitutional and international legal environmental obligations.
Based on the constitutional right to a healthy environment, the plaintiffs requested the Court to declare the unconstitutionality of the Brazilian government’s omissions and to issue an injunction compelling the government to actualize the Climate Fund by resuming operations and reactivating its institutional governance of the Fund.
By its decision dated 4 July 2022, the majority of the Court (10 out of 11 judges) granted the plaintiffs’ application. The Court recognized the government’s failure to fully allocate the Climate Fund’s resources for 2019. It ordered the Federal Administration not to neglect the Climate Fund again and determined that the resources from the Climate Fund cannot be withheld.
The Court based its decision on the constitutional duty to protect the environment (Art. 225 of the Federal Constitution), the rights and international obligations assumed by Brazil, and the constitutional principle of separation of powers. Judge Luís Roberto Barroso noted that treaties on environmental law constitute “a species of the genus human rights treaties” and, for this reason, enjoy supranational status.
The Court’s decision attracted attention as it was the first time that the country’s highest court addressed the issue of climate change.
Date of decision:
4 July 2022
- Petition (accessible via Climate Case Chart)
- Decision (in Portuguese)
- For further procedural information, visit Supremo Tribunal Federal.
- For Prof. Ingo Wolfgang Sarlet’s and Tiago Fensterseifer’s comment on the decision, click here.
- For Dr. Maria Antonia Tigre’s interpretation of the decision, click here.
- For more case documents, such as an English translation of the decision, visit Climate Case Chart.
Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, PSB et al. v. Brazil, case ADPF 708, decision of 4 July 2022.
17 April 2023.