The Importance Of Climate Legislation In India And Ridhima Pandey, The Nine-Year Old Girl Fighting For Environmental Protection Laws

The severe impacts of climate change continue to wreak havoc on countries and communities across the world, thus climate focused legislation is incredibly important. Climate laws and regulations contribute to minimizing the harmful effects of climate change, however, they must be implemented and enforced effectively by governments in charge. India, for example, faces many similar environmental issues that other countries are challenged with, ranging from air pollution to a loss of biodiversity, however, India appears to be making efforts to adopt climate legislation. For example, last month at a Business and Climate Summit, Union Environmental Minister Harsh Vardhan spoke about blueprints that` India is developing for the implementation of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, “we are working on developing a roadmap for implementation of our NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) and have constituted an implementation committee and six committees involving key ministries and department.” Moreover, at a UN ‘Leadership Summit on Environment Pact’, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj reaffirmed India’s obligation under the Paris climate change agreement to “work above and beyond” in combating greenhouse gas emissions.

Evidently, India is attempting to develop actions toward climate change, all the while when the citizens of India are currently suffering from the harmful effects of climate change. For example, last month Michael Safi, a correspondent for the Guardian, presented an article on how climate change is linked to the Suicides of Indian farmers. Safi described the research from the University of California, Berkeley that “illustrated the extreme sensitivity of the Indian agricultural industry to spikes in temperature … found an increase of just 1C on an average day during the growing season was associated with 67 more suicides.” Also, Safi commented on another concerning statistic that “one drought-hit state, Maharashtra, reported 852 farmer suicides in the first four months of this year while in 2015, one of the worst years on record, about 12,602 farmers killed themselves across India.” Thus, climate legislation in India must be more extensive and enforced significantly so that it is widespread in protection consequently, helping those that belong to a wide range of industries that climate change impacts.

Furthermore, climate legislation is also extremely paramount as it can be linked to the up-keeping of human rights. Vulnerable communities certainly suffer greatly from the effects of climate change, which is evident across India. Ridhima Pandey is a nine-year-old girl that has filed a petition against the Indian government for failing to act on signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement. Earlier this year, Chloe Farand published an article on the independent that explored the reasoning behind Ridhima’s fight to save the environment for future generations, “The northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, where Ridhima lives, has been devastated in the past three years by heavy rains, flash floods and frequent landslides, estimated to have killed thousands of people”. Farand comments on Ridhima’s case, that concerns an issue that India is the world’s third most carbon emitter and “has failed to put into action the promises it made in signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.” India signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement is a step in the right direction, howeve, climate legislation becomes useless if governments do not act instantly on such promises. Climate legislation with more broader measures will hopefully target the already existing concerns of vulnerable communities. 

Ridhima Pandey’s case against the Indian government is another prime example of how important climate legislation is, as it meant that Ridhima could enforce her human rights. Climate legislation is connected to human rights as it creates a basis of responsibility for countries that may implement unsustainable policies; which subsequently can violate basic human rights. Possible remedies that ensure climate legislation are being up-kept, is explored in Ridhima’s petition against the Indian Government, these proposed solutions are certainly practical and they could truly help the attempts the Government is trying to make. Farand explains these remedies, “in the petition, Ridhima asks the court to order the Government to prepare a carbon budget and a national climate recovery plan to ensure that India does its share to reduce atmospheric C02 below 350 parts per million by 2100, according to scientific recommendations.” Farand’s article also introduces the fact that other lawsuits are being filed across the world, “similar lawsuits are also being carried out in Belgium and New Zealand, and have already been won in Pakistan, Austria and South Africa,” governments must effectively introduced domestic frameworks and measures along the lines of those stated above to ensure that they are fulfilling the commitments and obligations made under international climate agreements.

Another possible future action that the Indian government could implement, which is like the ideas Ridhima proposed above, is the government being held responsible for submitting yearly reports regarding government sustainability. Thus this would prevent community and international backfire and it would establish a sense of understanding/communication between the government and the people. Furthermore, Ridhima’s case against the government demonstrates that India is developing and signing climate agreements which shows the global community their commitment to stopping the harmful effects of climate change however “on the ground nothing is happening,” stated by Rahul Choudhary (Ridhima’s Environmental attorney).

Overall, there is a sense of commitment coming from the Indian Government to hinder the harmful effects of climate change, however actual implementation and action is essential especially for those in vulnerable communities/industries. Climate policies are often linked to fulfilling long term goals. For example, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change announced in June that “Sweden passed legislation which legally binds the country to reach net-zero emissions by the year 2045, five years earlier than previously planned,” ambitious action like this are needed from India in order for a sustainable future environment. Finally, legislative agreements provide a helpful basis for governments to pursue new environmental based policies and effective implementation of short/long-term targets. Nonetheless, environmental issues resulting from climate change are occurring at an alarming rate thus, the effective implementation of climate legislation at a domestic level is urgently needed.