Individuals have brought cases before courts in Mexico challenging the country’s overall climate and energy policies.

Individuals have the right to bring a case against the government for not complying with their international or national climate change obligations. Cases can be brought to court through the Amparo Law, the Federal Environmental Liability Law, and the Federal Code of Civil Procedures to call for new policies or halt existing ones, as well as interpret or enforce domestic legislation and international treaties such as the Paris Agreement.

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.

Two relevant climate lawsuits have been filed following a change in the Federal Administration in December 2018 and the regressive energy policy of the new Government (e.g. fossil fuels support and gradual suppression of renewable energies). In 2019, the first case against the State for their overall climate policy was filed before Mexican courts. Fifteen young people (ages 17-23) from Baja California contested the lack of enforcement of the General Law of Climate Change and the failure of the government to meet its targets under the Paris Agreement (Amparo Indirecto 1854/2019). The claim was dismissed by the Judge alleging lack of standing. Following an appeal, in March 2020 the case was admitted by the Seventh Collegiate Tribunal (Admin) First Circuit and is currently under study.

Regarding the new energy policies, several NGOs and private companies have filed a lawsuit against the promotion of fossil fuels and the lack of legal certainty for renewable projects. In August 2020, Greenpeace Mexico contested the Energy Sector Program 2020-2024 (Amparo Indirecto 372/2020). A judge ruled that the provisions of the Program hindered the use of renewable energies, failed to protect the right to a healthy environment, and were not aligned with Mexico’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Consequently, the Program was stayed. The Federal government has announced its decision to appeal the sentence.

Through Amparo Law there have been two other cases in Mexico that reference climate change and cited the UNFCCC as a part of their standing in trial. The 238/2014 Amparo trial was a request to analyse whether a car’s restriction to circulate should be based on environmental criteria or by the car’s registration year. The tribunal detailed the precautionary and prevention principles of the UNFCCC articles 3 and 4 as the grounds of the case. In the 140/2016 Amparo Trial an analysis was requested on the refusal to allow a person to access Mexico City’s Subway System with a folding bike as allowing bicycles on the subway system would encourage reductions in GHG emissions and help achieve Mexico’s UNFCCC objectives.

In December 2020 Mexico submitted to the UNFCCC its updated NDC. In the first term of 2021, the NDC was contested by a Mexican NGO that filed a suit against the federal government. On October 1st a Tribunal ruled that the NDC mitigation section did not raise the ambition as envisaged in the Paris Agreement. The legal case is still under consideration by the Judicial branch.

Cases Mentioned

For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see:

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.