To date, individuals in Bolivia have not brought cases against the State or a government department for a specific project that contributes to aggravate climate change.
In Bolivia, any public or private actor who intends to develop a project that could negatively impact the environment needs to obtain an environmental permit prior to the commencement of its activities. National environmental legislation (Law 1333 and its regulation) establishes rules of procedures for Environmental Impact Assessments for such infrastructure projects. Project developers are required to evaluate the potential risks or impacts of the activities. This EIA has to be submitted to the competent environmental authority before an environmental license is given.
Environmental Regulation also states that an applicant is required to engage in a consultation process to publicise the characteristics of the project and its potential impacts as well as the mitigation measures to be adopted. This is consistent with the Bolivian constitution stating that “the population has the right to participate in environmental management, and to be consulted and informed prior to decisions that could affect the quality of the environment.” (Article 343, Bolivian Constitution).
If an environmental permit is granted to a project that does not meet the environmental legislation’s requirements, and therefore creates risks for the environment and population, an individual could file a claim against the public actor who authorised the infrastructure project through the competent administrative authority or judicial body, demanding its annulment and the author´s responsibility (Law 1333 and its regulation).
Also, collective rights (such as environmental rights) could be used as legal grounds to bring a popular action against an agreement or permit granted by public authorities that threatens or violates these rights, as established in articles 34, 135 y 136 of the Bolivian Constitution. If granted, this action could lead to the suspension of the project.
However, though within their rights, these kinds of initiatives have been hindered in the past by the government’s actions. For instance, several policies and regulations have been adopted which allow for hydrocarbon, mining, energy, and transport projects and have resulted in socio-environmental conflicts around numerous projects, such as the TIPNIS Highway and Chepete-El Bala and Rosita hydroelectric developments. NGOs and affected indigenous communities strongly opposed these developments for their environmental and climate change implications as well as their impact on indigenous and local populations’ rights and filed legal actions (acciones populares) against them. However, the government defended these projects, considering them necessary to the country’s socio-economic development and the legal actions resulted fruitless.
For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see: https://climate-laws.org/cclow/geographies/21
This country report has been produced by Hayley-Bo Dorrian-Bak, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Pau de Vilchez Moraga, C2LI Legal Analyst with the collaboration of Paola Villavicencio Calzadilla, C2LI National Raporteur for Bolivia. The summary is based on Paola Villavicencio Calzadilla, “Climate Change and the Individual Litigating Climate Change in Bolivian National Courts” in F. Sindico and M. Moise Mbengue, Comparative Climate Change Litigation: Beyond the Usual Suspects, Springer, 2021.