Individuals of Mexico have not brought any project-specific litigation against the State on the grounds of climate change, but this could change soon as part of the recent surge of climate change specific cases (see Scenario 1).
Cases can be brought by either an individual or a non-profit environmental organization to court through Amparo Law, the Federal Environmental Liability Law, and the Federal Code of Civil Procedures, and the General Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information to challenge specific projects of activities.
The Mexican Constitution (Article 107, section I) and the Amparo Law (article 5, section I), recognize legal standing for every natural or moral person that holds a subjective right or a legitimate individual or collective interest. Likewise, the Federal Environmental Liability Law grants standing to individuals living in the community adjacent to the environmental damage (degraded land, polluted watercourses, landfills, etc.), and to non-profit environmental organizations, when they act on behalf of an inhabitant of the affected community (Article 28, sections I and II). The Federal Code of Civil Procedures establishes that collective actions can be exercised by the representative of a community made up of at least thirty members, and by non-profit environmental organizations legally constituted at least one year prior to the time of filing the legal action (Article 585, sections II and III).
Amparo (“juicio de amparo”) can be used as a remedy for the infringement of constitutional rights, commonly regarding human rights violations. Individuals who believe their rights have been infringed due to their government not complying with international or national climate change obligations can file a climate change claim on this basis. It should be noted that the Mexican Constitution recognizes the right to an adequate environment (Article 4) which can be used as a relevant ground to file a case against national climate policy.
There have been several cases, mainly using the Amparo Law, which alleged that projects or initiatives somehow infringed the human right to a healthy environment, enshrined in the Mexican Constitution, though no direct links to a climate change argument have been made. This includes challenges to environmental permits on the bases of failures in the decision-making processes, such as inadequate assessment of specific projects’ risks to human health, inappropriate balance between environmental rights and project’s public utility or, simply, lack of environmental impact assessment.
For example, the Supreme Court Request 225/2015 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) case requested that the environmental impact permit granted to use water from the Sabinos River for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a road in Guadalajara, Jalisco should not be given on the basis that there is a human right to a healthy environment. Similarly, Supreme Court Request 987/2015 (1st Chamber: SCJN) was based on the grounds that an environmental impact permit should not have been granted for the “Aqueduct Independence” project in Sonora as the human right to a healthy environment was not protected. Further cases have opposed environmental permits being granted for specific projects such as the Supreme Court Request 51/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) to analyse the lack of an EIA for a project approved by the Council of Guadalajara, Jalisco.
The Supreme Court Review 3/2015 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) and Supreme Court Request 540/2015 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) cases reviewed a prior decision and requested the Supreme Court hear a case regarding the need for a balance between the human right to a healthy environment and public utility for the development of the El Zapotillio Dam and El Zapotillo-Los Altos Aqueduct in Jalisco and Guanajuato project.
Other requests and trials to the Supreme Court regarding opposition to the development of specific projects include the Supreme Court Request 30/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) opposing the construction of the El Zapotillo Dam, Amparo Trial Appeal 211/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) opposing the decree modifying the status of the “Nevado de Toluca National Park”, and Amparo Trial 307/2016 (1st Chamber: SCJN) and Amparo Trial Appeal 680/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) were inopposition to the “Ecological Thematic Park Laguna del Carpintero” project being an area of municipal public domain on a basis of a human right to a healthy environment.
There have also been a couple of Amparo trials, which request the analysis of pollution to rivers. Amparo Trail Appeal 201/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN) requests an analysis be facilitated in the Salado and Atoyac rivers in Oaxaca while the Amparo Trial 5091/2016 (1t Chamber: SCJN) requests analysis in the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers in Sonora.
Alternatively, the Federal Code of Civil Procedures and the Federal Environmental Liability Law can be invoked in cases where plaintiffs might question the GHG emissions that result from the licensing of a particular activity or project. Furthermore, plaintiffs might use the General Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information, which regulates the procedure to request information from federal or local governments (emitting sources, air quality data, chemicals release, etc.) or claims for misleading or incomplete information.
- Supreme Court Request 225/2015 (2nd Chamber: SCJN)
- Supreme Court Request 987/2015 (1st Chamber: SCJN)
- Supreme Court Request 51/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN)
- Supreme Court Review 3/2015 (1st Chamber: SCJN)
- Supreme Court Request 540/2015 (2nd Chamber: SCJN)
- Supreme Court Request 30/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN)
- Amparo Trial Appeal 211/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN)
- Amparo Trial 307/2016 (1st Chamber: SCJN)
- Amparo Trial Appeal 680/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN)
- Amparo Trial Appeal 201/2016 (2nd Chamber: SCJN)
- Amparo Trial 5091/2016 (1st Chamber: SCJN)
For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see: https://climate-laws.org/geographies/mexico
This country report has been produced by Hayley-Bo Dorrian-Bak, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Gastón Medici-Colombo, C2LI Legal Analyst with the collaboration of Rodolfo Godínez Rosales, C2LI National Rapporteur for Mexico and Manuel Tripp Rivera (Consultoría Jurídica y de Políticas Públicas: Sociedad, Ambiente y Territorio). The summary is based on Rodolfo Godínez Rosales, “Climate Change and the Individual in Mexico” in F. Sindico and M. Moise Mbengue, Comparative Climate Change Litigation: Beyond the Usual Suspects, Springer, 2021.