A nine-year-old girl has filed a court case against the Indian Government for failing to take ambitious action to tackle climate change.
Ridhima Pandey’s lawyer told The Independent she was a “compassionate child” who wanted her Government to help protect the planet 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.
And Ridhima has argued that India, the world’s third carbon emitter, has failed to put into action the promises it made in signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change.
According to the World Bank, climate change will exacerbate the stress on India’s water sources, and the country is expected to suffer major health crises.
The case includes allegations based on India’s constitution, the public trust doctrine, intergenerational equity and the alleged non-implementation of four environmental laws dating back as far back as 1980.
Ridhima knows she will have to inherit her country’s growing climate disasters and she is frustrated not to be able to participate in the decision-making process.
She has made it her mission to force her Government to prevent any further damage until she is old enough to help shape her country’s environmental polices.
“My Government has failed to take steps to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing extreme climate conditions. This will impact both me and future generations.
“My country has huge potential to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and because of the Government’s inaction I approached the National Green Tribunal,” she said.
A petition has been filed in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), a specialised court established in 2010, which hears only environmental cases.
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 CO2 below 350 parts per million by 2100, according to scientific recommendations.
The nine-year-old also wants the Government to move away from fossil fuels, protect forests, grasslands, soil, mangroves, engage in massive reforestation and improve agricultural and forestry practices.
Environmental attorney Rahul Choudhary filed the petition on her behalf and is representing her along with Ritwick Dutta and Meera Gopal.
Mr Choudhary said Ridhima was “simply asking her Government to fulfil its own duty to protect the vital natural resources on which she and future generations depend on for survival”.
He told The Independent: “Children in India are now aware about the issues of climate change and its impact. The Indian constitution says that it is ‘the duty of every citizen of India ... to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures’.
He added the case will highlight three important elements including the stall of renewable energy levels, the lack of robust examination of environmental impact statements for polluting projects and the monitoring of reforestation initiatives.
“On the one hand there is a gap in legislation and on the other hand, when there is legislation it is not being implemented.
“The most important thing about this lawsuit is that the Government needs to realise that it is not doing anything about climate change. It is signing paperwork to show the world it is doing something but on the ground nothing is happening,” he said.
Ridhima inherited her passion for climate change campaigning from her father, Dinesh Pandey, who has been working for 16 years for an environmental NGO in Uttarakhand.
Speaking to The Independent, the father-of-two said he was “very proud” of his daughter.
“I have raised her by teaching her about environmental issues.
“One day, she said to me ‘Daddy you raise a lot of these issues and nothing is being done so why are you not raising these issues in the courts?’ She then decided she wanted to do it,” he said.
Mr Pandey said that since the 2013 flood in Uttarakhand, the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami which killed thousands, heavy rainfalls and flash floods episodes are happening more frequently.
“It’s the poorest people who are going to suffer the most. The situation is dangerous to human life,” he said.
Climate change protests around the world
Climate change protests around the world
People rally to promote climate protection in Rome, Italy
Hundreds of demonstrators gather in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
People hold hands to form a human chain during a gathering called by ecologist organisations in Marseille, southern France, to protest against global warming a day ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris
Demonstrators clash with French riot police during protests on Place de la Republique, ahead of the COP21 World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris, France
Demonstrators clash with French riot police during a protest on Place de la Republique ahead of the COP21 World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris, France
A group of people perform during a rally to promote climate protection in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A protester sits next to his sign that reads 'Monsanto the Devil Incorporated ' as he joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Environmentalists dance during a protest near the Place de la Republique after the cancellation of a planned climate march following shootings in the French capital, ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France
People protest next to characters dressed as wild animals during a march against climate change near the Monument to the Revolution, in Mexico City
Protesters carries a banner while they take part in a protest about climate change at New York City Hall steps in lower Manhattan, New York
People take part in a protest about climate change around New York City Hall at lower Manhattan, New York
People rally to promote climate protection in Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy
A woman holds a globe during a protest for the global climate day in Lugano, Switzerland
Yemenis hold banners as they participate in the Global March for Climate in the old city of Sanaía, Yemen
Protesters dressed as Santa Claus take part in a protest about climate change at New York City Hall steps in lower Manhattan, New York
People gather at the Legislative Palace in Montevideo, during the Global Climate March to demand action on climate change telling world leaders on the eve of a crunch UN summit that there is "no planet B". From Sydney to London, humid Rio to chilly New York, at least 683,000 hit the streets in 2,300 events across 175 countries at the weekend, co-organiser and campaign group Avaaz said, calling it the largest number of people to protest over climate change all at once
A protester dressed as a panda bear marches with others holding banners reading 'stop climate change' through the streets of central Madrid during the Global Climate March
Demonstrators participate in the Global March for Climate in Athens, Greece
A man wearing a Bernie Sanders mask leads hundreds of demonstrators who marched near City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Patricia Hauser joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
A woman holds a poster of a sick Earth as she joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Hundreds of demonstrators march around City Hall in Los Angeles, California
A demonstrator holds cut-out of US Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as she joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
George Patten holds a sign that reads 'No Fracking Ever!' as he joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Gabrielle Sosa wears 'Rising Sea Levels' sign as she joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
This is not the first time a child has taken its Government to court over a lack of climate change action.
In the US, a group of 21 youths aged between nine and 20 are claiming the federal Government’s promotion of fossil fuel production and its indifference to the risks posed by greenhouse gas emissions threaten the survival of future generations.
By allowing the case to move ahead, District Judge Ann Aiken, laid the legal foundations for many more to follow.
Similar lawsuits are also being carried out in Belgium and New Zealand, and have already been won in Pakistan, Austria and South Africa.
In the Netherlands, a court ordered the Government to reduce carbon emissions by a quarter within the next five years.
Julia Olson, the lead in the “climate kids” case in the US and the executive director of Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organisation which aims to protect children from climate change, said: “This climate petition is evidence of a global movement of youth rising up and taking their Governments to court to seek protection of their fundamental rights to a stable climate system and demand science-based climate action.”
Meanwhile, the legal challenge in India is allowing Ridhima to hang on to hope for the future.Reuse content