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Lawyer wants Supreme Court to declare climate emergency in India, files a petition

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON NOV 09, 2019 01:00 AM IST

A petition in the Supreme Court has been filed seeking directions to the Union environment ministry to declare a climate emergency in India. The petition also seeks to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions across all the sectors of the economy by the year 2025. The court has scheduled the hearing of the petition for December 6.

The public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by Durgesh Gupta, an SC lawyer in the last week of October. He is also the founder of environment group Green Yatra.

“Climate change is not just another environmental problem. Climate risk is interplay of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we plant in, the food we eat, and the beauty and diversity of nature that nourishes our psychological well-being – our very health – all are being corrupted and compromised,” the petition read.

A senior official from the Union environment ministry said the Centre had taken cognisance of the PIL.

“India is emerging as a global leader in tackling environmental issues and climate change. Commitments made before international bodies are being fulfilled well before deadlines. Our forest cover is increasing on annual basis and we ensured that the tiger population has doubled two years before the deadline set by us. Such examples of targets completed across sectors will be presented before the court,” the official said.

In his petition, Gupta has referred to reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations over the past two years as well as reports highlighting the extreme pollution and weather events in the country, such as air pollution in north India, floods, predicted sea level rise and heat waves. He has also referred to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which states that around 1 lakh species globally are facing the threat of extinction.

“The SC has an extraordinary jurisdiction power using which it can frame laws to address the future consequences of climate change in India. The idea is to push the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to ensure actual implementation of policies and national targets rather than mere announcements made during conferences,” Gupta said.

SC advocate and environment lawyer Sanjay Upadhyay, said, “Rather than giving a stick to the government, we need more solutions in the form of on ground action plans. This has to be a mission stand point to meet the current climate liability. A sophisticated approach is needed for these vast environmental concerns.”

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