Who runs the world? Ridhima Pandey, for one. The nine-year-old girl from India is suing her government for failing to stem planet-warming greenhouse-gas emissions. In a petition filed last week with the National Green Tribunal, a court that handles cases related to the environment, Pandey reproached the country’s officials for not enforcing their own prescriptions for mitigating climate change, the consequences of which the “children of today and the future will disproportionately suffer.” The tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate, as well as the Central Pollution Control Board to respond within two weeks.
“As a young person, the applicant 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,” the 52-page petition, which names the above two agencies as respondents, said. “The government has failed to take any effective science-based measure, and there is a huge gap in implementation of the environmental legislations.”
India, with its population of 1.25 billion, is one of the world’s biggest polluters, coming in fourth after China, the United States, and the European Union.
That Pandey is the daughter of an environmental activist isn’t too surprising, though the lawsuit is reportedly her idea. Certainly she isn’t the first young person to take the Indian government to task over air pollution. Just last year, six teenagers filed a lawsuit over New Delhi’s infamously appalling air quality.
India isn’t completely oblivious to the damage climate change can cause. The South Asian nation, which officially ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change in late 2016, has pledged to generate at least 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030.
But Pandey thinks the government could—and should—be doing more. Her petition included a call for the government to prepare a “carbon budget” that places a cap on the country’s carbon-dioxide emissions, ensure that industrial projects meet emissions standards, and create a time-bound national climate recovery plan.
“Children in India are now aware about the issues of climate change and its impact,” Rahul Choudary, Pandey’s lawyer, said in a statement. “[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.”
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