Ecstatic Climate Justice

Progression of climate change is evident through such catastrophes as Superstorm Sandy, devastating floods in Pakistan, Ethiopia’s dry season and Europe’s heat waves. These disasters display the increasing impacts of changing climate on destruction of property and, in a few examples, loss of life. The loss of life from outrageous climate fiascos is happening more in less developed countries. Extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods are resulting in debilitating food supplies and access to clean water. They deny individuals of their livelihoods. These calamities are anticipated to become more continuous and serious with change in atmosphere – having clear ramifications for the protection and attainment of basic human rights.

The developing international consensus on human rights – climate change nexus in the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Framework as well as in the global climate change governance is reviewed in “Environmental Rights and Case of Climate Justice in Pakistan”. In any case, early claims that considered public and private actors responsible for human rights infringement in light of climate change related mischief have confronted various obstacles that will keep on being correlated for further endeavours at human rights-based climate change suits.

The nexus between climate change and human rights has established a key place in the field of international relations, human rights law and policy making. In 2008, the issue came first to the attention of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). According to UNHRC’s Resolution 7/23, climate change is an existential threat to the human race, therefore; special focus should be given to the fulfilment of basic human rights. In the meantime, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was given the task of examining impacts of climate change on human rights.

According to OHCHR Report, climate change has dire ramifications for the acknowledgment of human rights. Despite the fact that the report perceived and acknowledged relationship between climate change and human rights, still; two major human rigths arrangements, including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) seemed overlooking the right of sustainable environment that is a basic human right, going to be severely affected by climate change. Other than the sustainable environment, basic human rights include one’s right to: life, health, food, water, satisfactory housing, collective right of self-determination and rights concerning access to data and investment in basic decision-making viewing ecological risks.

According to UNHRC’s Resolution 7/23, climate change is an existential threat to the human race, therefore; special focus should be given to the fulfilment of basic human rights. In the meantime, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was given the task of examining impacts of climate change on human rights.

Climate change adaptation is one of the main aims of the Paris Agreement. It aims at keeping the rise of global temperature “well below” 2 °C and “pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °Cat pre-industrial levels – goals which themselves acknowledge the importance of significantly reducing the risks and impacts of climate change”. The Paris Agreement also supports a need to defend the most vulnerable sections of a society from climate change impacts and adds climate change-human rights nexus in global struggle against climate change. According to Knox, “the Paris Agreement signifies the recognition by the international community that climate change poses unacceptable threats to the full enjoyment of human rights and those actions to address climate change must comply with human rights obligations.”

The aftermath of the Paris climate change negotiations saw the rise of climate change cases wherein solicitors supported their cases in “rights” terms. These cases represent an ability with respect to prosecutors to endeavour human rights contentions in climate context as well as developing receptivity of courts to this approach. The accompanying areas look at the rights-based contentions progressed in the Urgenda and Leghari verdicts, and additionally those in later cases in different regions. These cases recommend a new approach for human rights-based cases to challenge governments on the basis of human rights infringements. While these verdicts should be surveyed with specific “socio-legal” settings in which they emerge, they however indicate the way how human rights-based climate change suits might feature the methodologies that may be adopted to overcome obstacles brought up in earlier cases.

Pakistan’s story has been remarkable in climate protection. Besides providing leadership as Chair of G77 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, its Constitution includes a whole catalogue of “fundamental rights”.

In this context, rising climate change-human rights cases are a sign that demonstrates an expanded utilization of human rights-based contentions by defendants and receptivity of courts towards human rights-based argumentation in climate change cases. These endeavours to bring rights contentions up in climate change cases correspond with a time of expanded global attention regarding human rights and the climate change nexus, incorporating “preambular reference in the Paris Agreement”. A single nation’s efforts towards “climate justice” may attract a rise in global response towards climate change. Pakistan’s story has been remarkable in climate protection. Besides providing leadership as Chair of G77 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, its Constitution includes a whole catalogue of “fundamental rights”. The Pakistani judiciary has developed a dense jurisprudence of public interest environmental litigation (PIEL) to enforce the constitutionally protected fundamental rights of the public in the last 25 years through ‘The Asphalt Plants Case 1991’, ‘The Shehla Zia Case 1994’, ‘The Salt Miners Case 1994’, ‘The Solid Waste Management Commission 2003’, ‘The Lahore Clean Air Commission 2003’, ‘The Lahore Canal Road Mediation Committee 2011’, ‘Islamabad Environmental Commission 2015’, ‘Climate Change Commission 2015-2018’, ‘Houbara Bustard Commission 2017-2018’, ‘Smog Commission’ and ‘Child Care Commission’. In this vein, it would not be wrong to assert that court-appointed commissions have been successful in resolving complex climate related issues. Nevertheless, there is a need of social and policy change regarding climate change in the world in general and in Pakistan in particular.

Adeel Mukhtar Mirza

Adeel Mukhtar Mirza

Adeel Mukhtar Mirza is an Assistant Research Officer at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.

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