Declaring "we need to move to climate change justice," the Lahore High Court Green Bench ordered the government of Pakistan to implement the National Climate Change Policy and convened a Climate Change Commission to oversee and report to the Court on progress.
Ashgar Leghari v. Federation of Pakistan (W.P. No. 25501/2015)
Lahore High Court Green Bench
A farmer filed a public interest litigation alleging the government of Pakistan’s inaction and delay in implementing the National Climate Change Policy and addressing vulnerabilities associated with climate change violates the fundamental constitutional rights to life and dignity.
In its first order, issued 4 September 2015, the Green Bench declared:
“Climate Change is a defining challenge of our time and has led to dramatic alterations in our planet’s climate system. For Pakistan, these climatic variations have primarily resulted in heavy floods and droughts, raising serious concerns regarding water and food security. On a legal and constitutional plane this is clarion call for the protection of fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, in particular, the vulnerable and weak segments of the society who are unable to approach this Court.”
Para. 6. The Green Bench invoked the right to life and the right to dignity protected by the Constitution of Pakistan and international principles, including intergenerational equity and the precautionary principle, to call for a “move to Climate Change Justice.” Para. 7.
Finding that federal and provincial officials had done little to implement adaptation measures to cope with changing climatic patterns, which threaten food, water, and energy security, the Green Bench directed responsible ministries and departments to: appoint a focal person on climate change to appear before the Green Bench, and prepare a list of adaption measures to be completed by the end of 2015. The Green Bench also established a Climate Change Commission to help the Court monitor progress and achieve compliance with guidelines. See Para. 8.
In a second order, issued 14 September 2015, the Green Bench recognized “[f]or Pakistan, climate change is no longer a distant threat-we are already feeling and experiencing its impacts across the country and the region. The country experienced devastating floods during the last three years. These changes come with far reaching consequences and real economic costs.” Para. 3. For that reason, the Green Bench explained, it is important to implement the recommendations in Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy “to ensure that climate change is mainstreamed in economically and socially vulnerable sectors of the economy and to steer Pakistan towards climate resilient development.” Para. 9
The Green Bench listed each official appointed as a “focal person” on climate change and the members of the Climate Change Commission. The Green Bench retained jurisdiction (continuing mandamus) to hear reports from representatives concerning their progress.