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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Uruguay

Uruguay’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 47 reads: “The protection of the environment is of general interest. Persons must abstain from any act that causes grave depredation, destruction or contamination to the environment. The law shall regulate this provision and may provide sanctions for transgressors. Water is a natural resource essential for life.”

On May 4, 1989: The Government of Uruguay and the Inter-American Development Bank signed a technical cooperation agreement to finance a national study that would help incorporate the environmental dimension into the development process of Uruguay.

Concurrently, the Government of Uruguay requested that the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States act as the executing agency of this national environmental study and that the Department of Regional Development and Environment of the Organization of American States provide the necessary technical assistance to the Uruguayan Office of Planning and Budget (OPP).

Featured Legislation

2000: Law No. 17,283 was passed. This Law declares of general interest, in accordance with the provisions of article 47 of the Constitution of the Republic: a) the protection of the environment, the quality of air, water, soil and landscape; b) the conservation of biological diversity and of the configuration and structure of the coast; c) the reduction and proper management of toxic or dangerous substances and waste of any kind; d) the prevention, elimination, mitigation and compensation of negative environmental impacts; e) the protection of shared environmental resources and those located outside the areas subject to national jurisdiction; f) regional and international environmental cooperation and participation in the solution of global environmental problems; g) the formulation, instrumentation and application of the national environmental and sustainable development policy. Article 2 establishes that the inhabitants of the Republic have the right to be protected in the enjoyment of a healthy and balanced environment.

2008: Law no. 17.283 (Environmental Act) was approved. This law declares of public interest the environment in its multiple forms. Art. 19 charges the Ministry for Housing, Territorial Management and Environment of applying the UNFCCC Convention, establishing adaptation and mitigation measures, and regulating GHG emissions.

2009: Law No. 18.597 (on the Efficient Use of Energy in the National Territory) declares the efficient use of energy to be in the national interest, lays down rules for its promotion and regulation. Has references to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

2010: The National Plan for Response to Climate Change was tabled. The National Plan for Response to Climate Change (PNRCC) is a national instrument whose general objective is to identify, plan and coordinate the actions and measures necessary to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in Uruguay, as well as the actions necessary for the adaptation of society and the productive sectors to the impacts derived from climate change and variability. The specific objectives are: a) coordinate institutional actions for an efficient response to climate change; b) move towards comprehensive climate risk management; c) improve knowledge about vulnerability to climate change scenarios; d) establish preventive adaptation policies that help protect biodiversity and ecosystems and reduce the vulnerability of the population; e) introduce in the productive sectors, adaptation and mitigation strategies that tend to reduce their vulnerability; f) promote mitigation actions taking advantage of the opportunities generated by the external framework for technology transfer, investment and access to the carbon market; g) stimulate the participation of key actors through education, training and development of public awareness programs. Among the guiding principles of the Plan, it is worth highlighting that of sustainable development, as well as the principle of precaution and prevention. The document consists of the following Chapters: (I) Introduction; (II) Climate Change and Vulnerability Scenarios; (III) Status of the situation in Uruguay; (IV) Strategic considerations; (V) Strategic lines of action; (VI) Programming and management of the Plan; (VII) Annexes.

2016: The National Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity of Uruguay 2016-2020 was promulgated. The National Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity of Uruguay (ENB) is a strategic instrument of national scope, relating to the period 2016-2020, whose objective is to conserve and promote the sustainable use of Uruguay’s biodiversity while safeguarding its components and processes, and ensuring access and equitable distribution of the benefits derived from it to maximize the quality of life of all inhabitants of current and future generations. The Strategy is based on the principle of comprehensive management and the paradigm of sustainable development.

2017: The National Policy for Climate Change was introduced. The National Climate Change Policy is a national instrument whose general objective is to promote adaptation and mitigation in the Eastern Republic of Uruguay in the face of the challenge of climate change. The document seeks to contribute to the sustainable development of the country, with a global perspective, intra- and intergenerational equity and human rights, seeking a more resilient society, less vulnerable, with a greater capacity to adapt to climate change and variability, and more aware and responsible in the face of this challenge, promoting an economy with low carbon emissions, based on production processes and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable services that incorporate knowledge and innovation. The Policy has a time horizon of 2050 and foresees its development and implementation in the short, medium and long term.

2019:  Law No. 19,829 (Comprehensive Waste Management Law) was established. The purpose of this Law is to protect the environment and promote a sustainable development model, in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 17,283, through the prevention and reduction of the negative impacts of generation, management and all stages of waste management and the recognition of its possibilities of generating value and quality employment. Regarding the scope of application, all waste is contemplated regardless of its type and origin, with the exception of radioactive waste and waste generated in mining exploration or exploitation, when they can be managed at the site where the mining takes place. mining activity. Solid or semi-solid residues are included, as well as those in liquid or gaseous phase, which due to their physicochemical characteristics cannot be entered into the traditional discharge or emission treatment systems. For the purposes of applying the Law, article 5 introduces the classification of waste.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Mitigation and adaptation strategies to address climate change in Uruguay are currently underway. Greening strategies in major cities are one of the most effective adaptation measures. The government has launched numerous campaigns such as planting more trees to green the cities. In cities where the lack of urban greening contributes to prolonged heat waves, adaptive solutions are essential, according to the Ministry of Environment. Roofs of buildings or homes with vegetation produce oxygen and absorb CO2, filtering dust and dirt particles from the air, and preventing overheating of ceilings. The campaign also aims to leverage trees as filters for urban pollutants and small particles. Over the past decade, Uruguay’s cities have been particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme events such as droughts, floods, heat and cold waves, strong winds, tornadoes, hailstorms, frosts, heavy rains and severe storms. More than 93 percent of the nation’s population lives in urban areas., and this pattern is expected to intensify in the coming years. Uruguay’s National Adaptation Plan for Cities and Infrastructures (NAP-Cities) is a new effort at the national level to integrate the adaptation approach in cities, in infrastructures and in planning at the national and local levels. In 2018, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved the Government of Uruguay’s Readiness Proposal in order to advance towards a National Adaptation Planning process in cities and local governments . The initiative is led by the Ministry of Housing and land-use planning in coordination with the Ministry of Environment, with the support of the Uruguayan Agency for International Cooperation of Uruguay and implemented by the UNDP. The overall goal is to deepen the technical understanding and knowledge of climate change adaptation.

References and Further Reading


Tabaré Hackenbruch Subsecretario subsecretario@mvotma.gub.uy