Greve pelo clima no Rio (Foto: Fridays For Future Brasil)


Young activists sue Brazilian government for “carbon trick maneuver”

Unprecedented class action seeks annulment of the new Brazilian goal under the Paris Agreement, which reduced ambition

14.04.2021 |

The reduction of Brazil’s climate ambition has reached the courts. In an action without precedent in the country, this Tuesday (April 13th), six young activists filed a lawsuit before a São Paulo state court seeking annulment of the updated Brazilian pledge under the Paris Agreement, which was presented at the end of last year. According to them, the document issued by the government violates the climate treaty. The lawsuit is supported by eight former environment ministers.

The young activists, members of Engajamundo and Fridays For Future Brasil, want the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, and the Bolsonaro government to be held responsible for what they refer to a “carbon trick maneuver”. This is a dodgy change in the NDC, the Brazilian goal under the Paris Agreement, which will allow the country to increase its greenhouse gas emissions by 400 million tons in 2030, when compared to previous estimates.

The Brazilian NDC was originally presented in 2015, just a few months before the Paris climate conference, COP21, which adopted the agreement. The country then proposed to reduce its emissions by 37% in 2025 when compared to 2005 levels. For 2030, Brazil has proposed an indicative target of 43% reduction. According to the document, these levels of reduction were “consistent” with net emissions of 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 e) in 2025 and 1.2 billion tons in 2030.

On December 9, 2020, the Brazilian government updated and replaced the NDC. The new pledge confirms the indicative target for 2030. However, it presents a new calculation of emissions for the base year, which raises net emissions to 1.76 billion tons in 2025 and 1.6 billion in 2030.

“Thus, Brazil achieved the feat of having a less ambitious goal than the previous one. This is a flagrant violation of the Paris Agreement, which only admits an increase in the level of ambition in the NDCs and never a reduction”, says Txai Bandeira Suruí, who represents Engajamundo. She is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, together with Paloma Costa, Paulo Ricardo Santos and Thalita Silva e Silva, also from Engajamundo, and Marcelo Rocha and Daniel Holanda from Fridays for Future Brasil.

The “trick maneuver” caused the Brazilian goal to suffer an unprecedented downgrade — from “insufficient” to “highly insufficient” — according to the international consortium Climate Action Tracker, and led the Climate Action Network, a pool of 1,300 NGOs, to address an equally unprecedented letter to the UN Climate Convention, asking that it not be accepted.

“Going to court is the only way to counter public policies like this, which jeopardize our future and gets us further and further away from meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, which are already insufficient”, says Marcelo Rocha. “The carbon accounting trick done by this government is a threat not only to Brazilian youth, but to the whole planet.”

Besides, the document further undermines Brazil’s international credibility in the environmental area, hindering the ratification of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement and halting the country’s entry into OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). “That is why we have also filed for preliminary injunction, so that the effects of this change can be immediately stayed”, says Holanda.

The young activists’ lawsuit was supported in a letter by eight former Environment Ministers: Carlos Minc, Edson Duarte, Gustavo Krause, Izabella Teixeira, José Carlos Carvalho, Marina Silva, Rubens Ricupero, Sarney Filho.“Contrary to the text of the Paris Agreement, to our Federal Constitution and to our legislation, the Brazilian government, through an accounting artifice, took a step backwards with regard to the climate ambition presented to the Climate Convention secretariat. This violation of the provisions of the Agreement will have serious negative consequences for Brazil”, affirm the former ministers. “In this context, we express our full support for the class action filed by the six young climate activists”.

Press information:

Solange A. Barreira                            Claudio Angelo

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