Researching climate legislation to support effective advocacy in Latin America and the Caribbean

by Bianca Bonfantino & Candela Zunino
Wednesday, 26 April 2023 15:21 GMT

This impact story is part of a series to celebrate the extraordinary pro bono projects undertaken by legal teams to support NGOs and social enterprises with the support of TrustLaw. All projects mentioned in this series are nominated for this year’s TrustLaw Awards. Find out more.  

While most Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) countries have taken steps to address climate change, the region’s emissions are steadily growing. This is a serious issue: many LAC countries are highly vulnerable to increasing climate variability and temperature extremes, especially those with coastal cities threatened by sea-level rises. The harmful consequences of climate change are already significantly impacting communities in the region. 

All LAC countries have ratified the Paris Agreement and the majority are committed to its implementation. However, according to the 2021 NDC Synthesis Report, although many parties to the Paris Agreement have increased mitigation efforts, these have fallen far short of what is needed to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. As specified by UN Climate Change News, an anticipated 16% increase in global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010, may lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7°C by the end of the century. This will have grave consequences for the LAC region. 

Sustentabilidad Sin Fronteras (SSF) is an Argentine foundation that works to fight climate change through advocacy, awareness, mitigation and adaptation. They approached TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, for legal assistance to identify, analyse and compare the climatic laws and regulations across Latin America to assess how they could be improved.  

TrustLaw connected SSF to teams of lawyers from the law firms Ferrere Abogados, Muñoz Tamayo y Asociados, Hogan Lovells, Baker and McKenzie LLP, Eversheds Sutherland LLP, Allende & Brea Sociedad Civil, Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga Advogados to provide the organisation with a clear and comprehensive overview of the legal framework governing climate change in Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. 

The result was a comparative study on climate change laws in Latin America which analyses the legislation of some of the Latin American countries that have enacted a Climate Change Legal Framework (CCLF). A CCLF is any regulation that serves as a comprehensive and unified basis for climate change policies, and which addresses multiple aspects and areas of climate change mitigation and adaptation in a holistic and comprehensive manner. Out of the 35 countries in LAC that have ratified the Paris Agreement (PA), only seven countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru) have a CCLF. This report covers and compares climate change laws in these countries based on twelve factors, including: adaptation and mitigation plans, financial mechanisms, regulation on just transition and climate justice, and short- and long-term commitments.  

The study will help SSF to improve its understanding of the current legal situation across LAC jurisdictions, supporting their advocacy for improved legislations. Ultimately, they seek to champion ambitious initiatives that can appropriately address the challenges that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports on every year. 

Speaking about the support facilitated through TrustLaw, Mariano Villares, founder of SSF, said: “In October 2022 we presented the report in the Argentinian National Congress, and we were able to discuss the main findings with Gladys González, National Senator for the province of Buenos Aires and President of the Argentine Environment and Sustainable Development Commission.” 

He continued: “This report helped us to engage in deeper conversations with other regional NGOs such as OXFAM, CANLA and, locally, the AACA network. Furthermore, receiving this legal assistance allowed us to strengthen our position in the region and open conversations with key actors.” 

Roxana Gayoso, Counsel at Estudio Echecopar, a member Firm of Baker & McKenzie International, the coordinating law firm, said: “The whole team agreed that the topic was unique, and the opportunity to learn while contributing to the report really excited us. Climate change should not be overlooked […] and it is important to act right now instead of waiting until the situation is irreversible. Through the project we became aware of how we as lawyers can act in the face of climate change. Laws exist to help us shape our actions, and it is up to us to spread the concern and try to deaccelerate damage to the environment, or even better, stop it.” 

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