Landmark Supreme Court ruling could spur more climate cases in India Report

New Delhi, Jun 27 (PTI) A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of India which recognised the right against adverse effects of climate change as a distinct fundamental right could drive more climate litigation in the country, according to a global report released on Thursday.
    Citing the case of M K Ranjitsinh and Others vs. Union of India, the report by the London School of Economics' Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment said that climate cases in the Global South are increasing and gaining more attention.
    The report said that over 200 climate cases from Global South countries are recorded in databases, comprising about 8 percent of all cases globally.
    "While research indicates a growing trend in utilizing the courts as instruments in climate policy responses in some Global South countries, there may be a strategic avoidance of climate litigation in others," the report said.
    For instance, it noted that India's historically low number of climate cases reflects a conscious decision to avoid an overly narrow focus on emissions, as this can overlook broader issues related to livelihoods, rights, and ecological concerns.
    "However, there may be a shift following a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India," the report added.
    The M K Ranjitsinh case originated from concerns about the impact of overhead power cables on the Great Indian Bustard. It evolved into a broader discussion on balancing climate action with other conservation measures, as the government argued that the power transmission lines were essential to India's climate change response.
    The authors said the case exemplifies a significant type of non-climate-aligned litigation that has emerged in recent years, known as green versus green litigation. These cases involve a trade-off between climate and biodiversity or other environmental aims.
    The authors analyzed a database of 2,666 climate litigation cases compiled by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. Around 70 percent of these cases have been filed since 2015, the year the Paris Agreement was adopted. In 2023 alone, 233 new cases were filed.
    Although only 5 percent of climate cases have been brought before international courts, the authors said these have significant potential to influence domestic proceedings.
    The United States leads in the number of documented climate cases, with 1,745 cases in total and 129 new cases filed in 2023. Following the US, the UK, Brazil, and Germany have the highest numbers of recorded cases.
    Climate cases were filed in 2023 for the first time in Panama and Portugal, while older cases in Hungary and Namibia were identified, bringing the total number of countries with recorded climate cases to 55.
    The report also noted a rise in cases concerning "climate-washing" – exaggerated or misrepresented climate credentials – with 47 such cases filed in 2023, bringing the total to over 140.
    The year 2023 saw a significant increase in cases against climate action, with 50 filed, including backlash litigation against environmental, social, and governance initiatives, as well as lawsuits targeting NGOs and shareholder activists.
    Internationally, 2023 was an important year for climate litigation.
    The European Court of Human Rights confirmed that Switzerland's failure to act on climate change violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Other significant cases included the Swiss Senior Women's case, the Montana case in the US, and the Canadian youth's case against Ontario.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)