Thalia Viveros Uehara, PhD Candidate, University of Massachusetts Boston, School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, USA
Addressing Health Crises through Courts? Climate Litigation in Latin America, the Right to Health and Vulnerable Populations
As the climate crisis disproportionately imperils the health of Latin America’s populations experiencing poverty and social exclusion, the need to realize the most vulnerable’s right to health becomes ever more pressing. While the region’s new constitutionalism has advanced the protection of this right, such a transformative approach is just beginning to intersect with climate change law as rights-based climate litigation proliferates. This dissertation applies a transdisciplinary multi-methods research approach to analyze the body of climate cases filed through 2022 in Latin American jurisdictions, studying the urgent coupling of two pressing issues—the severity of climate change and the region’s pervasive poverty and social exclusion—a confluence that manifests as “health crises.” Particularly, it answers the following question: How do these health crises emerge within, and how are they tackled by courts through, domestic climate litigation in Latin America? In doing so, it explores the legal and socio-political factors influencing how health concerns of vulnerable populations are raised and addressed in climate litigation, with the goal of identifying how the profiles, motives, and resources of claimants and judges influence their approach to protecting these population groups’ right to health. This knowledge illuminates the strategic and interpretative potential for litigants and courts to better use climate litigation in alignment with climate justice, thus offering a pathway to mitigate health crises emerging in contexts characterized by deep socioeconomic inequalities.