Climate Change Litigation in India and Pakistan: Analyzing Opportunities and Challenges

Photo by Cristi Goia

Dr Birsha Ohdedar, Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, has contributed a chapter in the edited volume Climate Change Litigation: Global Perspectives (BRILL, 2021). The book brings together experts around the globe to analyse the role of litigation at the national, regional and international level in advancing efforts to tackle climate change.

Dr Ohdedar’s chapter, ‘Climate Change Litigation in India and Pakistan: Analyzing Opportunities and Challenges’, contextualises and analyses cases in India and Pakistan. Since the case of Asghar Leghari v Pakistan, where a Pakistani farmer successfully petitioned the Court to hold the Pakistani government to account for its lack of climate action, the region has been of interest to lawyers, activists and academics. Ohdedar’s chapter looks at this case, and other similar cases in India, that aim to catalyse national level climate action.

Ohdedar’s chapter goes beyond a focus on headline cases. The chapter analyses the development of litigation with reference to broader socio-political dimensions of litigation, environment and climate change in the region. The chapter highlights, for instance, that a narrow focus on climate change and emissions reduction can obscure livelihood, ecology, poverty and rights concerns. For instance, renewable energy development has often seen the dispossession of local communities of their land or destroying forest land. In many instances, courts have overlooked these concerns because of a narrow focus on emissions reduction and generation of clean energy.

The chapter also argues for future approaches that account for ‘litigation in the context of climate change’. These are cases dealing with mitigation and adaptation in substance but not necessarily expressly framed as ‘climate’ in their arguments or court decisions. Ohdedar draws on litigation concerning coal mining and drought relief showing how they actively shape climate-related concerns. These cases are often unaccounted in ‘climate litigation’ in scholarship, yet their impact for climate mitigation and adaptation is significant.

Accordingly, the chapter provides a fresh perspective to the current literature on climate litigation in India and Pakistan through a more focussed analysis of climate litigation in the domestic political and legal context within which such litigation takes place.

A version of the chapter is available for free from ResearchGate here.

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