On 12 September 2023, Brazil´s Attorney General Office, representing the Brazilian Federal Environmental Agency, filed a climate litigation lawsuit against a livestock farmer, seeking compensation for the deforestation of the Amazon Forest between 2003 and 2016.
This blog post provides a brief overview on this new lawsuit, which further strengthens a new trend for climate litigation in Brazil.
The main point of attention in this new litigation is that the Attorney General Office is seeking compensation for climate damages resulting from deforestation. In general, environmental lawsuits in Brazil seek the recovery of areas degraded by deforestation, and financial compensation for relevant environmental damages, not expressly considering climate implications. However, what stands out regarding this latest lawsuit is the fact that the Attorney General Office established a direct cause and effect relationship between the emission of greenhouse gases caused by the defendant and its contributions to the global climate emergency. The emissions of greenhouse gases were then specifically quantified by the plaintiff, based on the quantity of CO2 emitted and its social cost.
According to the Attorney General Office, 5,600 hectares of deforestation accounted for the emission of approximately 901,000 tons of greenhouse gases, in reference to the tons of carbon emitted from one hectare of land deforested, as estimated by Project CADAF (Carbon Dynamics of Amazonian Forest) and a study conducted by Brazil’s Center for Management and Strategic Studies. In order to translate the greenhouse gases emitted to a monetary value, the plaintiff leveraged the concept of the social cost of carbon. By applying the social cost per ton of CO2, developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – in which 1 ton equals EUR 60 (or BRL 324, as per current exchange rates) – the Attorney General Office estimated that the defendant caused BRL 292 million in climate damages.
As discussed here, in April 2021 the Brazilian Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a public civil action with a similar claim, seeking financial compensation for climate damages resulting from deforestation. In that case, the prosecutor employed a carbon calculator software to quantify the social cost of the emission of greenhouse cases.
The new lawsuit filed by the Attorney General Office, and the similar previous litigation filed by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, are an indicative of a trend in Brazil’s climate litigation landscape, in which compensation is no longer restricted to classic environmental damages (air pollution, water pollution etc.), but extends to climate impacts as well. Likewise, it further reinforces that climate litigation against private entities is becoming a reality in Brazil, as they are being increasingly and consistently sought to answer for purported climate damages.