Ridhima Pandey is living proof that no one’s too young to fight climate change.
The nine-year-old girl recently filed a legal case against the Indian government for failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions from factories, vehicles, and agriculture. The petition accuses officials of neglecting their duty to protect Indians young and old from environmental harm.
“My government has failed to take steps to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing extreme climate conditions,” Pandey said in a recent statement. “This will impact both me and future generations.”
Pandey filed her petition with India’s National Green Tribunal, a specialized court that handles environment-related cases. Her lawsuit targets the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate, as well as the Central Pollution Control Board of India.
Late last week, the tribunal asked both agencies to respond to Pandey’s petition within two weeks. A spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they would respond as directed by the tribunal.
The nine-year-old’s lawsuit bears similarities to a youth-led legal effort in the United States.
A group of nine-to-twenty-year-olds has accused the U.S. government and energy companies of violating the children’s “constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property” by failing on global warming.
Pandey’s petition is more “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,” Julia Olson, lead counsel in the U.S. climate lawsuit and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, said in an earlier statement.
India, a nation of 1.25 billion people, is already suffering the effects of a warming climate. In recent decades, a decline in monsoon rainfalls and a rise in extreme heat waves has resulted in severe droughts, lower agricultural yields, and reduced access to fresh water. Sea level rise, melting Himalayan glaciers, and extreme rains are causing dangerous floods.
“As a young person [Pandey] is part of a class that amongst all Indians is most vulnerable to changes in climate, yet are not part of the decision-making process,” according to the 52-page petition.
Pandey, the daughter of an environmental activist, isn’t the first young person to defend India’s environment through legal channels. Last year, six Indian teenagers filed a separate lawsuit over air pollution in New Delhi, India’s capital city, which has the worst air quality in the country.
India is home to four of the world’s 10 worst-ranked cities for air pollution. It’s also the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the United States, although India’s emissions represent only about 6 percent of the global total.
In her filing, Pandey asks the tribunal to order the government to prepare a carbon budget and a national climate recovery plan.
“Children in India are now aware about the issues of climate change and its impact,” her attorney Rahul Choudary said in a statement. He added that Pandey “is simply asking her government to fulfill its own duty to protect the vital natural resources on which she and future generations depend on for survival.”