The role of the Brazilian state in tackling climate emergencies

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights brings together activists, experts and socio-environmental defenders in Manaus (AM) to discuss ways to guarantee human rights in the face of the climate crisis

Audiências Públicas da Corte IDH Foto: Rômulo Serpa/Agência CNJ Audiências Públicas da Corte IDH Foto: Rômulo Serpa/Agência CNJ

The city of Manaus hosted discussions on democracy and climate emergencies during public hearings set up by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). The event was held at the end of May and brought together global civil organisations as part of the 167th Regular Session of the Court which began in April. 

Participating in the hearings were organisations from a number of countries and the objective was to discuss state responsibility regarding climate emergencies, as stipulated by the American Convention on Human Rights, an international treaty that binds member countries of the Organisation of American States (OAS). 

Focus on mitigation and adaptation

Representatives of civil organizations, legal clinics and universities highlighted the urgent need for policies that mitigate the effects of environmental imbalances and protect vulnerable populations. Overall, these societal actors emphasized that member states must prioritize climate policies that consider the rights of children, adolescents and future generations, and ensure the participation of the most vulnerable populations in the decision-making process.

Speaking at the event the lawyer Mayara Justa, who is a litigation advisor at Conectas, emphasised the importance of a healthy environment and a stable climate as fundamental human rights. “The human right to a healthy environment imposes substantial, procedural, and special obligations on states for groups in vulnerable situations,” said Justa. She stressed that these obligations must be guided by principles such as non-discrimination and intergenerational equity.

Differentiated responsibilities and state commitments

The debate also addressed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Justa highlighted that, while wealthy countries must provide funding and support to overcome the use of fossil fuels, American states have a duty to initiate the energy transition based on the parameters of the Paris Agreement. American states must commit to the maximum possible reduction within their conditions, using the best available science, she stated.

Additionally, Justa emphasized that the energy transition must respect the rights of indigenous populations and traditional communities, valuing their ancestral knowledge. An example of this is in the Rafaéis Mountain Range, in the Chapada do Araripe – a region that includes the states of Ceará, Pernambuco and Piauí. The quilombo remnants of the Rafaéis Mountain Range, in Simões (PI) have been fighting for over 10 years to ensure that the rights of the traditional peoples and communities, guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and international treaties, are respected by renewable energy projects. Wind farms have transformed not only the local landscape but also the lives of the people. Their social relationships and interactions with the surrounding vegetation are being impacted. Inaugurated in 2017, the Ventos do Araripe III Complex was built by the Brazilian company Casa dos Ventos Energias Renováveis S.A., with financing from BNDES (Brazilian Social and Economic Development Bank) and NDB (New Development Bank), a financial institution linked to the BRICS group, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Among the main complaints from community residents are the high noise levels caused by the blades, which increase drastically when the wind picks up, making it difficult for people to sleep. The increased incidence of lightning, as well as the deaths of animals, especially birds, are also noted as new occurrences since the arrival of the wind farms in the region. Currently, new wind farms are in the process of being installed in Araripe. 

The representative of Conectas also highlighted the role of development banks in adjusting the economic activities of any country, whether by promoting activities with lower impact or by investing so that companies and sectors develop technical production solutions with lower climatic impact. She gave the example of an action in which Conectas demanded that BNDESPar – a subsidiary of BNDES (Brazilian Economic and Social Development Bank) take responsibility for managing the equity holdings in companies owned by the bank, including the publication of a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan to guide its investments according to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC).

Discussions highlight the importance of collective and coordinated action to address climate emergencies, emphasising the crucial role of states in protecting the environment and ensuring human rights in a scenario of growing climate vulnerability.

See here Conectas’ full speech: 

Find out more

Receive Conectas updates by email