Édis Milaré ranks prominently in our lists and is heralded by peers as one of “the greatest practitioners in environmental law”.
Professor Milaré is the founding partner of Milaré Advogados. He is a former state prosecutor of the state of São Paulo and the first coordinator of the environmental law area of the São Paulo State Prosecutor´s Office (1983-1992). He was São Paulo State Secretary of the Environment (1992-1994) and president of the Foundation for the Conservation and Forestry Production of the state of São Paulo (1995-1997). He is also a professor of environmental law and the author of several books and articles.
Describe your career to date.
I have almost 60 years’ experience, the first 30 of which devoted to the São Paulo State Prosecution. As a prosecutor and together with peers, I formed a group concerned with defence of the environment, which led me to propose, in 1985, to create the first Environmental Prosecution Coordination Office, which I led for some time and where I pursued several pioneering efforts that became paradigms for court rulings in every state in Brazil. In this period, I was also a co-drafter of the Class Action bill (which became Law 7.347/1.985), an instrument that has revolutionised the practice of the law as concerns the protection of trans-individual interests. I also played a part in drafting Chapter VI of the Federal Constitution as concerns treatment of the environment in terms of citizenship and environmental policy.
I also held other positions in the public sector, such as São Paulo State Secretary of the Environment (1992-1995), and was president of the São Paulo State Foundation for Forest Conservation and Production (1995-1997).
Since 1996, I have been at the helm of the Milaré Advogados, which I founded as a pioneering environmental law practice and whose actions in this domain have been the inspiration for several generations of practitioners.
What was the greatest challenge you faced when setting up your own firm, and what have you found most rewarding about the process?
At first, one of the main challenges was creating a doctrine for the environment based on principles derived not only from other domains of the law, but new ones as well capable of enshrining a new hermeneutics of environmental law and comprised by a legal system that was not yet familiar with the area’s complexities at the time. It is no overstatement to say that, in addition to fighting vicious battles to uphold our views and defend our clients, we also served as pedagogues of sorts given the general lack of awareness environmental topics. However, notwithstanding our efforts and dedication to consolidate environmental law as a stand-alone discipline, it has been greatly rewarding to see my doctrine referenced in iconic rulings not just at the higher courts, but in several other venues nationwide.
What do clients look for in an effective environmental lawyer?
Aside from our experience and technical knowledge of the Law, the number of successful cases is becoming a trademark of our firm, and is earning us great recognition in the legal market. This provides a significant edge over the competition and is therefore one of the reasons why clients come to us to defend their cases.
Following the recent election, how do you think the approach to environment could change from the government and law makers?
To face major global problems like climate change and the loss of biodiversity, the environmental agenda has been gaining a new approach on the Brazilian political stage, and equated with matters of the highest national relevance, such as healthcare, education and housing, among others. Since the latest general elections, we have witnessed the introduction of an environmental variable into several policies, in particular the low-carbon economy and the energy transition. That is, the topic has been regarded in a more transversal way. In addition, we saw the implementation of actions in strategic areas to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals and recover our protagonism in the defence of the environment, with measures to fight deforestation in the Amazon and other biomes, as well as the structuring of environmental protection authorities. The executive branch has not been alone on this front, with the legislature branch making headway with several important environmental bills. In 2023, large expectations surround the regulation of the carbon market, which will involve both branches and also requires the involvement of economic sectors and organised society.
If you could introduce one reform to Brazilian environmental law, what would it be and why?
I have long argued for the creation of a national environmental law code. At present, the role is filled by Law 6.938/1981, which provides for the national environmental policy. What we need, however, is a code worthy of its name, rather than a jumble of scattered laws gathered together and consolidated. We do need a code that can serve as a true handbook for citizenship and provide guidance for the laws at the level of the states, federal district and municipalities.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
As a firm aligned with the latest environmental law trends, and involved with changes affecting not only material law, with the introduction of new concepts, but also procedural law, with gains made in terms of case parties and negotiated resolutions for environmental class cases, among others taking shape in doctrine and case law. Also, to increasingly raise and promote debate on matters of great import for the domain, concerning the growth of the ESG agenda, environmental justice, climate disputes, and environmental damages liability, among others. In addition, legal practice – including our firm – must also adapt and transform in the face of technological progress, particularly as concerns the increasing use of artificial intelligence.
What excites you most about the future of environmental law?
The relevance that the area has been gaining in recent years and the desire for it to gain even loftier status amongst the key areas of the Law.
You have built a very distinguished practice in environmental law. What do you hope to achieve that you have not already?
I hope to consolidate efforts in the field of education, which began at our firm with the creation of the Milaré School of Environmental Law. It was originally meant purely to meet our staff’s training needs, but has seen demand to address new challenges and build the skills of outside personnel. In this sense, I hope that our school may contribute to the democratisation of knowledge in the environmental area, enabling the widest possible access.