Climate litigation in India & world:

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April 22, 2024

Climate litigation in India & world:

Why in News? Courts in India have been dealing with climate-related issues for a long time . The article discuss the issues raised by SC recently regarding climate  change  & individuals rights.

The SC has said that that people had a fundamental right to be free from adverse impacts of climate change, and that this right flowed naturally from the right to life and the right to equality guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.

Increasing climate litigation:

  • The Supreme Court articulation comes at a time when there is a big surge, globally, in the number of people seeking legal remedies for issues related to climate change.
  • As government and corporate actions on climate remain woefully inadequate, and more and more people feel the brunt of climate change impacts, an increasing number of concerned individuals and groups have been turning to courts to set things right.
  • The 2023 edition of Global Climate Litigation Report, a periodic publication of the UN Environment Programme, identified 2,180 climate-related cases being heard by courts, tribunals and other adjudicatory bodies in 65 countries.
  • The 2020 edition of the same publication had identified 1,550 cases in 39 countries while the inaugural edition in 2017 had found 884 cases in 24 countries.
  • Bulk of these cases have been filed in the developed countries, mainly the United States and Europe. The United States alone accounts for about 70 per cent of these cases identified by the 2023 report. But increasingly, cases are being filed in developing countries as well. The report identified 11 cases in India, putting it 14th on the list of countries with maximum number of cases.

Climate litigation in India:

  • Courts in India have been dealing with climate-related issues for a long time now, even though they might not have been categorised as climate litigation. The National Green Tribunal, which deals exclusively with environmental matters, is the main forum for such cases but petitions routinely land in the High Court and Supreme Court as well.
  • However, there have been very few instances of petitions referring to, or seeking recourse from, the broader problem of climate change. Last week’s Supreme Court order is almost sure to change that.
  • “Courts in India have been dealing with several issues related to climate. Issues of deforestation, habitat protection, urban development, air and water pollution are all linked to climate.


Impacts of SC’ decision & challenges ahead:

·          the recent Supreme Court decision will  reinforce the critical nature of climate change, and that would potentially pave the way for a new jurisprudence where people, socio-economic development, nature and climate are equally prioritized.

·          It will pressurize the government  to consider an  appropriate mitigation or adaption plans and policies.


·         Court interventions can be very useful in matters relating to air or water pollution, or forest or wildlife conservation. Climate change is a very different beast, however.

·         It is a multi-dimensional problem that cannot be tackled through any single or small set of interventions.

·          Minimizing the impacts of climate change is beyond the capability of any single local, regional or national government.

·         The courts might not be as activist on climate change as they are on some other environmental issues.


·         The court has limitation on judicial review in this matter , it the executive  who can implement the policy in a effective way.

Way forward:

·          There is need to adopt a multidimensional approach with active involvement of local Government , community  and involvement of world ‘s  major countries.

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Climate litigation in India & world: | Vaid ICS Institute