Colombian supreme court issues ground-breaking ruling on Amazonian deforestation

By Sophie Foggin April 9, 2018
Deforestation Amazon Colombia

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Colombian Supreme Court judges rule the urgent necessity for government measures to protect the Amazon from deforestation which, according to recent statistics, increased by 44% from 2015-16.

In January, a lawsuit was raised by 25 young people, including children as young as 8, along with Bogotá-based human rights organisation and think-tank Dejusticia. Their demands included the right to a healthy environment, to life, health, food and water: all of which find themselves threatened by Amazonian deforestation and the effects it is having on global warming. Thanks to high-quality legal and social research, the group were able to present the first lawsuit of its kind, and the first to be ruled favourably upon throughout the whole of Latin America.

Speaking to El Tiempo, Minister of Environment and Sustainable development Luis Gilberto Murillo outlined his intentions for the region, “we are committed to generating sustainable development alternatives for the Amazonian population…but we also have to think about conserving and maintaining our natural assets.”

The final ruling gave the President, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development four months to formulate a plan of action, with short, medium and long term objectives. The same entities have also been given a deadline of 5 months to construct a ‘PIVAC’ – Intergenerational Pact for the Life of the Colombian Amazon. In other words, a plan of action focused on reducing deforestation to zero and producing measurable preventative, obligatory and corrective climate change strategies.

The Supreme Court not only confirmed that those who raised the lawsuit were entirely correct, but also emphasised state negligence on the matter, stating that “all human individuals must stop thinking exclusively with their own interests in mind. We are all obliged to consider how our actions and daily behaviour impacts upon society and nature”. In an effort to protect the ecosystem, the judges ruled that the Amazon must be recognised as an entity with its own rights, equal to those of a human being, an unprecedented decision that has been labelled “historic” by plaintiff and Dejusticia researcher Camila Bustos.

In 2016, 178,597 hectares of forest were destroyed, an area of land equivalent to a Colombian department as big as Quindío. “It comes down to historical oversight, both nationally and internationally”, Director of Dejusticia and lawyer César Rodríguez Garavito attempted to clarify how the deforestation managed to get so out of hand. He also stressed how one of the major objectives of the national plan moving forward is for future generations to take responsibility to look after the country and planet that they live in.

Currently, trees and vegetation are being destroyed in the name of industries such as illegal mining and logging (between 7-8%), and illicit plantations (20-22%), among others. According to the ruling, this deforestation has led to “imminent and serious” damage as a key causer of greenhouse gas emissions, one of the leading causes of global warming. Now, those at Dejusticia and inhabitants of the Amazon await the results with baited breath at a particularly critical time for environmental issues in Colombia.