Whilst Uruguay has not experienced litigation challenging the government for authorising a specific project that leads to increased emissions or ineffective adaptation, Uruguay has experienced project-specific litigation against the State in the case of Laguna del Garzón bridge. Despite the claimants challenging the construction of the bridge on grounds of its ‘high negative environmental impact’ in an area considered as “protected” by law, the claimants were unsuccessful.

  • However, Article 306 of the Constitution and fulfilment of Article 42 of the General Process Code (procedural requirements) provides potential “preventative measures” which could prevent the final construction of projects likely to create ‘high negative environmental impact. Nevertheless, this is difficult to attain as all of the following requirements have to be met in order for the preventative measures to take place:
  • Claimants have to prove their rights have been violated;
    • Claimants have to prove that certain damage will occur if the project/activity is allowed to continue; and
    • (Likely but not possible) a warrant of payment is necessary.

Additional avenues to bring claims challenging the government for authorising specific projects that negatively impact the environment could be based on the following grounds:

  • Constitutional grounds: Although Article 47 of the Constitution does not provide a constitutional “right to a healthy environment”, it still infers that “environmental protection is of general interest”. It states that acts of “people shall refrain to cause any depredation, destruction and pollution to the environment. The Law will regulate this disposition and shall envisage sanctions against transgressors.” Article 47 provides scope to bring a project-specific claim where these acts negatively impact the environment in the manner outlined above.
  • Human Rights: wide interpretation of Article 72 of Constitution, linked with the ratified international Protocol on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1988), provides for a “right to live in a healthy environment.” Violation of such a right could provide grounds to base a claim against a public authority for a specific project that negatively impacts the environment, based on strong reasoning of human rights violation. These grounds can only be based on the international treaties on human rights ratified by Uruguay.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: individuals have scope to bring a claim challenging the authorisation of a project that negatively impacts the environment, where the local, municipal or national authority fails to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment as manded by laws and regulations, and causes direct damage to the claimant.

To be granted standing, the General Process Code requires claimants to fulfil procedural requirements, such as proving a violation of their rights or by demonstrating a minimum interest in the case (Article 42 General Process Code). Furthermore, to bring a claim based on human rights violations, based on Uruguay’s ratified international treaties on human rights, individual(s) must prove direct damage has occurred and that they are entitled to claim the fulfilment of the disposition inside a treaty binding between states.

Remedies include a Parliamentary or Executive Power decision nulling/prohibiting activities authorised without EIA that cause direct damage to the claimant.

Cases mentioned

  • Laguna del Garzón Bridge case, “Quedó inaugurado el polémico puente Garzón” (2015).

For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see: https://climate-laws.org/geographies/uruguay

This country report has been produced by Aditi Shetye, C2LI Research Assistant, Iona McEntee, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Juan Auz, C2LI Legal Analyst. This summary is based on Juan Manuel Rivero Godoy, “Climate change and the individual: Uruguay’s National Report” for the 2018 International Academy of Comparative Law Biannual Conference in Fukuoka, Japan.