In growing green litigation numbers, India SC finds global recognition

SC passed order in April based on a petition demanding overhead lines, solar panels, wind turbines be taken down around habitats of the Great Indian Bustard

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The report mentions and analyses reasons for “India’s historically low number of climate cases”

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The Indian Supreme Court’s order in April this year, which expanded the fundamental rights to life and equality, and the right to be free from adverse effects of climate change, finds special mention in the annual report of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and Environment at the London School of Economics.

Grantham’s annual report is the sixth edition of the institute’s Global Trends In Climate Change litigation, and it mentions India’s apex court for passing an order based on a petition demanding overhead power transmission lines, solar panels and wind turbines be taken down in areas that are in and around critical habitats of the endangered bird species, the Great Indian Bustard.

The report says the Supreme Court’s order is a good example of increasing cases where two sets of environmental concerns were in conflict with each other. The government had debated that energy and climate change concerns made projects as solar panels and wind turbines essential. The Supreme Court, seeing reason in the government’s argument, had issued directives for alternative measures to ensure that the endangered birds were also protected.

The petition to protect the Great Indian Bustard is exceptional since there are few such climate and nature-related initiatives in India, in contrast to the increasing global trend of climate litigations. In 2023, for instance, 233 petitions were filed all over the world, seeking legal adjudication in issues concerning climate change that were of significance to the public in general, the annual report said.

The report observes that “India’s historically low number of climate cases has reflected a conscious decision to avoid an overly narrow focus on emissions, as this can overlook broader issues related to livelihoods, rights and ecological concerns”.

The United States leads in terms of filing such cases, with 129 of the 233 petitions being filed in the country’s jurisdiction in 2023.

The report notes that the maximum number of petitions are filed by individuals or NGOs, though governments file cases related to climate change issues, too.

The Grantham report draws data from the climate litigation database of the Sabin Centre for Climate Change Law at the Columbia Law School in the United States, which in turn has records of around 2,666 climate change cases registered globally.

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