|Ridhima Pandey, a nine-year-old from the Uttarakhand region, is the named plaintiff in a climate change case filed in March 2017 with the National Green Tribunal of India. Plaintiff’s petition argues that the Public Trust Doctrine, India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, and India’s existing environmental laws and climate-related policies oblige greater action to mitigate climate change. It also argues that the term “environment,” as used in the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, necessarily encompasses the climate. The case was brought pursuant to section 2(m) of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, which authorizes claims that raise “a substantial question relating to the environment.” In addition to those legal provisions, the petition cites the principles of sustainable development, precaution, and intergenerational equity, as well as judicial decisions based on similar legal principles in the Netherlands (Urgenda Foundation v. Kingdom of the Netherlands), Pakistan, (Leghari v. Pakistan), and the U.S. (Juliana v. United States).
The petition notes that India is the third-largest national emitter of greenhouse gases (behind China and the U.S.) and among those countries that are most susceptible to adverse climate change impacts. It identifies 1° degree Celsius or 350ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide as the critical pair of thresholds for India (and the world) to avoid exceeding for the sake of avoiding severe climatic changes—facts described in the petition as rooted in “[t]he best climate science.”
To remedy the alleged injury to the present and future climate, the petition asks the court to order the national government to undertake a variety of measures, including but not limited to inclusion of climate change in the issues considered by environmental impact assessments, preparation of a national greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and preparation of a national carbon budget against which particular projects’ emissions impacts can be assessed.