On December 30, 2021, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development published Resolution 436/2021 approving the implementation of an offshore seismic acquisition project submitted by the Norwegian company Equinor. This approval of offshore fossil fuel exploration resulted in several lawsuits seeking an injunction to halt the project and an order declaring the approval’s regulations null and void. Some of those lawsuits are, partially, grounded on climate concerns. Other relevant cases can be found here and here.
On January 13, 2022, a group of NGOs filed a constitutional collective action (amparo colectivo ambiental) against the Argentinian National State and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development for its approval of the offshore exploration activities. This case presents the climate impacts of the projects as the main grounds for its claims. Among others, plaintiffs mention that the project breaches national and international climate commitments and affects intergenerational equity, that the NDC to the Paris Agreement is insufficient, that the State is responsible not only for emissions within its territory but also for emissions arising from future fossil fuels exports, and that the Environmental Impact Assessment is flawed because it did not consider climate impacts. Notably, this claim refers to high-profile climate cases in other jurisdictions, like Urgenda (the Netherlands), Neubauer (Germany), Sharma (Australia); Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (South Africa); Gray and Gloucester Resources (Australia) and Greenpeace Nordic (Norway).
On January 14, 2022, all the three climate lawsuits against the offshore exploration activities (together with other non-climate related cases) were combined, and the court will hand down a single judgment for all.
On February 11, 2022, the Federal Court of Mar del Plata ordered a halt to the fossil fuel exploration activities. The order does not make any mention of climate change concerns. Instead, the judge focuses on failures regarding procedural rights (participation and information) with explicit mention of the Escazú Agreement, lack of strategic environmental assessment, and possible risk to marine biodiversity. In the decision, the precautionary principle plays a key role. On February 15, 2022, the government filed an appeal to the injunction order. In its appeal, the government is also asking for the removal of the judge from the case. On February 18, 2022, a different judge (Federal Court of Mar del Plata N.4) allowed the appeal to proceed with suspensive effect. That means that the exploration activity can go ahead until the Federal Court of Appeal revises the injunction order.
On June 3, 2022, the Federal Court of Appeal (Federal Chamber of Mar del Plata) annulled the injunction relief delivered by the Federal Court on February 11, 2022. However, at the same time, the Court ordered the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, as a new injunction, to issue a new complementary environmental impact assessment that considers possible cumulative impacts of the activities. In this new assessment, the spatial and temporal scope of the project's implementation must be analyzed and weighed. It is also mandatory to include the participation of the National Parks Administration and to consider the results of the public consultative hearings, organized at both local (public hearing initiated on 30 May 2022), and national levels (public consultation which ended on 19 May 2022). Finally, the Court asked for the inclusion of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in the control and monitoring of compliance with the Environmental Impact Statement and its corresponding Environmental Management Plan (a task before assumed only by the Secretary of Energy). In this sense, exploration activities should stop (again) until all these requirements are met. Climate arguments were not developed by the Court of Appeal.
On December 5, 2022, the Federal Court of Appeal (Federal Chamber of Mar del Plata) considered that the authority had met all the requirements asked in its order of June 3th. That implies the termination of the injunction and, therefore, the exploration activity can go ahead until a final decision on the merits is delivered. Climate arguments are, once again, absent in the Court of Appeal's decision. The plaintiffs announced their intention to appeal this decision before the Supreme Court.
|01/13/2022||Petition||Download||Petition (in Spanish).|
|02/11/2022||Order||Download||Injunction granted by the Federal Court of Mar del Plata (in Spanish)|
|02/15/2022||Appeal||Download||Appeal to the injunction order / Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development (in Spanish)|
|02/18/2022||Decision||Download||Order / Federal Court of Mar del Plata (nº4) / Appeal allowed|
|06/03/2022||Decision||Download||Decision (in Spanish)|
|12/05/2022||Decision||Download||Decision from federal court of appeal (Spanish)|