Quantcast

7-Year-Old Files Climate Change Lawsuit with the Supreme Court of Pakistan

Climate

A 7-year-old girl, Rabab Ali, through her father and pro bono environmental attorney Qazi Ali Athar, and on behalf of all the Pakistani people, filed a climate change lawsuit Tuesday against the Federation of Pakistan and the Province of Sindh in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Constitution Petition asserts that, through the exploitation and continued promotion of fossil fuels, in particular dirty coal, the Pakistan and Sindh governments have violated the Public Trust Doctrine and the youngest generation's fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, human dignity, information and equal protection of the law.

“The protection of these inalienable and fundamental rights is essential if we are to have any chance of leaving our children and future generations with a stable climate system and environment capable of sustaining human life," said Qazi Ali Athar, public interest environmental attorney representing his daughter as youth petitioner in the case.

“Pakistan is rich in renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, more than enough to meet the energy needs of current and future generations of Pakistanis. Yet the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan, along with the vested interests in the country and the region, are exploiting Pakistan's most environmentally degrading and carbon intensive fuels—low-grade coal from the Thar Coal Reserves—in violation of the Pakistani people's constitutionally protected fundamental rights."

The petition details how the Pakistan government has acknowledged the particular vulnerability of Pakistanis to the effects of climate change, including the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, flooding and cyclones. The government has also recognized, in the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) and the Framework for Implementation of Climate Change Policy (Framework), Pakistan's “role as a responsible member of the global community in combating climate change ... giving due importance to mitigation efforts."

And in Pakistan's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in December 2015 prior to the climate talks in Paris, the government admitted, “Potential for mitigation exists in all sectors of [Pakistan's] economy" and made the commitment that “Pakistan will promote and support low-carbon, climate resilient development." Yet, completely antithetical to these statements and in violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, the government, in its own climate change policy documents and Pakistan's INDC, promotes and plans for a significant increase in Pakistan's CO2 emissions through the exploitation of large untapped low-grade coal reserves.

Ali hopes that by bringing this petition, her government will start doing its share “as a responsible member of the global community" in reducing atmospheric CO2 and achieving global climate stabilization and that the Supreme Court will order the government to develop and implement science-based mitigation actions, tiered to achieving such a goal, as part of the NCCP, Framework and INDC. The petition includes the prescription for achieving global climate stabilization from the renowned climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, which says that to restore a stable climate system, the dangerous levels of CO2 currently in our atmosphere must be reduced to below the maximum safe level—350 ppm atmospheric CO2—by the year 2100.

“Last year, to celebrate 'World Earth Day,' I pledged allegiance to the Earth and to the flora, fauna and human life that it supports, with safe air, water and soil, economic justice, equal rights and peace for all," said Youth Petitioner Ali. “I want my government to take a similar pledge, by creating a plan that will allow me and future generations a safe environment to grow up in."

“Youth are rising up globally and taking their governments to court to seek protection of their inalienable rights to a stable climate system," said Julia Olson, executive director for the nonprofit organization Our Children's Trust and lead counsel on a climate lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the U.S. government. “This case filed today in Pakistan builds on similar cases brought by young people in Uganda, Ukraine and the U.S. Our Children's Trust is working in partnership with young people around the world to elevate their voices and provide them with legal and scientific support, including youth who are mobilizing in India, Canada, France, England, Australia and elsewhere. This youth legal movement is growing."

“This bold action is indeed evidence of a global movement of citizens demanding science-based climate action from their governments, which the Paris agreement did not achieve," said Roger Cox, attorney for URGENDA who recently secured a court order in the Netherlands ordering the Dutch government to decrease emissions. “Like the court found in our Dutch case, governments have a duty to safeguard the climate for present and future generations. Valuable legal precedents are being set that will hopefully become an avalanche of successful climate change court cases against governments worldwide. In the absence of sufficient political action to tackle the climate crisis, courts have the authority and the constitutional duty to prevent and protect society from climate change related damages, casualties and infringements of fundamental rights and civil liberties. What courts do in these cases will have implications for the rest of the world and for the degree of climate change we will all face in the years to come."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

6 Colorado Teenagers File Appeal in Fracking and Climate Lawsuit

Food Not Bullets: Hunger Pangs of Starving Farmers Met by a Barrage of Bullets

Surgeon General's Warning: We Must Act on Climate

Mark Ruffalo: TPP Would Fuel Climate Chaos and Empower Corporate Polluters

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Jennifer Molidor, PhD

Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Rushing waters of Victoria Falls at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zimbabwe pictured in January 2018. Edwin Remsberg / VW PICS / UIG / Getty Images (R) Stark contrast of Victory Falls is seen on Nov. 13, 2019 after drought has caused a decline. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP / Getty Images

The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs — Southern Africa's iconic Victoria Falls.

Read More Show Less

Monsanto's former chairman and CEO Hugh Grant speaks about "The Coming Agricultural Revolution" on May 17, 2016. Fortune Brainstorm E / Flickr

By Carey Gillam

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.

Read More Show Less
A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.