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Supreme court ruling on Climate Change UPSC NOTE

 What is the backdrop to the Supreme Court ruling that citizens have a right against the adverse effects of climate change?

  • The Court notes that the Indian government has taken multiple steps through legislation as well mission-led programmes to address climate change. 

  • The Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

  • These were among those referenced in the judgment; the National Solar Mission, the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency

and, the National Mission for a Green India were also mentioned. 

  • Despite governmental policy and rules and regulations recognising the adverse effects of climate change and seeking to combat it.

  • There is no single or umbrella legislation in India which relates to climate change and the attendant concerns

  • However, this does not mean that the people of India do not have a right against the adverse effects of climate change,” the Court noted.

  • Despite constitutional guarantees that give citizens equality before the law and right to life and personal liberty.

  • It was now necessary, in the Court’s view, to explicitly link the impact of climate change as something which impedes these rights of liberty, life and equality. 

  • This is perhaps because this right (against climate change) and the right to a clean environment are two sides of the same coin

  • As the havoc caused by climate change increases year by year, it becomes necessary to articulate this as a distinct right

  • It is recognised by Articles 14 and 21,” the judgment notes

  • The Court also said that if vulnerable communities were affected, say by coastal erosion, land degradation, or if people were made additionally vulnerable to disease, agricultural losses, storms and flooding.

  • All indirectly linked to climate change — then rights under these Articles (14 and 21) would be violated, further necessitating an explicit link between climate change and rights.

Why has a link been drawn between climate change and human rights?

  • The link between climate change and human rights has grown stronger since the Paris Agreement of 2015

  • The preamble of the Agreement had references to “human rights.”

  • In a 2023 research paper, Doreen Lustig and Ilil Gabison of Tel Aviv University highlighted that there was a growing convergence between the fields of international human rights law (IHRL) and climate change. 

  • Several reports of UN human rights bodies and Human Rights Council resolutions are now drawing a link between rights and climate change. In 2005.

  • Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Canadian-Inuk activist, in her capacity as chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (now known as the Inuit Circumpolar Council).

  • Petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to get relief for human rights violations resulting from the impacts of climate change. 

  • This was among the first explicit links translating the impact of the climate crisis into human rights language

  • Scholars also argue that the framing of climate change as affecting future generations and endangering their right to a liveable planet follows from the link to human rights. 

  • That is how the climate activism, for instance, of Greta Thunberg and her ‘school strikes for climate’, must be understood.

Is this happening in litigation in other countries too?

  • Supreme Court judgments on environmental matters have often significantly altered public discourse and governmental action

  • For instance, decisions in the M.C. Mehta verus Union of India, the Godavarman Thirumulpad cases have been the foundation of subsequent environmental action. 

  • In the current case of the Great Indian Bustard too, the ruling has come with the Court underlining the necessity for expanding electricity production for solar energy sources. 


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Supreme court ruling on Climate Change UPSC NOTE
Supreme court ruling on Climate Change UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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