Twenty-five children and young citizens of Colombia between the ages of seven and 26 on Monday filed the first ever climate change litigation [lawsuit, PDF, in Spanish] in Latin America.
The plaintiffs, represented by Dejusticia, come from 17 regions classified by The Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) as high-risk areas affected by climate change. These areas include Arauca, Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena, Cubarral, Envigado, Florencia, Floridablanca, Buenaventura, Itagüí, La Calera, Leticia, Manizales, Neiva, Plamira, Quibdó, San Andrés, and Providencia.
The plaintiffs demand that the president of Colombia come together with the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture [official websites], the National Parks and regional autonomous corporations, and the mayors and governments of the Amazon to stop the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Specifically, the lawsuit demands that the government submit “a plan of action to reduce the rate of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon to zero by the year 2020,” in line with the promise made by President Juan Manuel Santos [official website] at the 2015 Climate Summit in Paris, and include young individuals in the decision-making process concerning this matter.
The suit has been filed in the civil division of Tribunal Superior del Distrito Judicial de Bogotá and is based on article 79 of the Colombia Constitution [text, PDF]. This represents the first ever case to base its claim on the theory that the Constitution guarantees “young people a non-toxic environment, suitable for human habitation, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The suits cites the Ministry of Environment’s findings that Colombia’s temperature increased by 0.8°C or 33.4°F in the last 45 years, which has made the country more vulnerable to drought, landslides, floods, tropical diseases and food shortages. According to the suit, rising sea levels, which represent an additional risk, have already eroded beaches in the bay of Santa Marta and Puerto Colombia.
Dejusticia stated [press release] of the suit:
Just as the mayors of New York and San Francisco sued the most polluting oil companies to compensate for the damage to the global climate, and as the government of the Netherlands has been court-ordered to decrease the carbon emissions of the country, we are asking that Colombia fulfill its own commitments against global warming. … The generations of the future are already here, and with this legal action, children and young citizens send a clear message: they are not going to resign themselves to the world they will inherit.