The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change adopted by 196 Parties at COP21. The overarching goal is to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius, and ideally keep it only to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In a world-first, the supreme court of Brazil has declared that the Paris Agreement is a human rights treaty that must take precedence over national laws.
The case that led to this ruling, PSB et al. v. Brazil (on Climate Fund), was filed by four political parties (the Workers’ Party, Socialism, and Liberty Party, Brazilian Socialist Party, and Sustainability Network) as a response to the government failing to distribute money from the national Climate Fund (Fundo Clima) since 2019.
The Brazilian government believed that the Climate Fund was not constitutionally protected and should the court interfere, it would violate the country’s separation of powers.
However, in the end, the Supreme Federal Court ruled, “Treaties on environmental law are a type of human rights treaty and, for that reason, enjoy supranational status. There is, therefore, no legally valid option to simply omit to combat climate change.”
Going forward, this means that any laws made by the Brazilian government that goes against the Paris Agreement will be invalid. Violating the Paris Agreement, and therefore the supreme court’s ruling would be seen as a violation of the country’s constitution and human rights.
“The constitutional duty to allocate the funds effectively means that there is a duty to mitigate climate change considering the international commitments under the climate change framework,” explains Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law case chart.
Following the PSB et al. v. Brazil case are two more climate cases: one that argues for implementing the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon, and another arguing that the government is failing to manage the Amazon Fund.
Hopefully, the trend will continue and those championing the issue of climate change will continue to benefit from Brazil’s supreme court rulings. The hope is that this will spur the proper implementation of climate policies throughout the nation and that other countries will soon follow suit.