KARACHI: A seven-year-old girl now has the power to hinder the federal and Sindh governments’ plans to produce electricity using Thar’s coal reserves after the Supreme Court (SC) ruled on Wednesday that minors can file a petition through their attorneys.
A full bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, passed this order while allowing an appeal filed by Rabab Ali against the objection of the apex court’s registrar that she could not file a public interest petition through her attorney.
The bench, which also comprised justices Mushir Alam and Faisal Arab, was hearing the case at the SC’s Karachi Registry.
Rabab, through her father, pro-bono environmental attorney Qazi Ali Athar, and on behalf of the people of Pakistan, had filed a climate change lawsuit against the federation and the Sindh government.
The petition asserts that through the exploitation and continued promotion of fossil fuels, in particular dirty coal, the federal and Sindh governments have violated the Public Trust Doctrine and the youngest generation’s fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, human dignity, information, and equal protection of the law.
“The protection of these inalienable and fundamental rights is essential if we are to have any chance of leaving our children and future generations with a stable climate system and environment capable of sustaining human life,” argued Athar.
“Pakistan is rich in renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, which is more than enough to meet the energy needs of current and future generations of Pakistanis,” he argued. “Yet the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan, along with the vested interests in the country and region, are exploiting Pakistan’s most environmentally degrading and carbon intensive fuels – low-grade coal from the Thar coal reserves – in violation of the Pakistani people’s constitutionally protected fundamental rights,” he added.
The petition detailed as to how the Pakistan government has acknowledged the particular vulnerability of Pakistanis to the effects of climate change, including the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, flooding and cyclones.
The government has also recognised, in the National Climate Change Policy and the Framework for Implementation of Climate Change Policy, Pakistan’s ‘role as a responsible member of the global community in combating climate change . . . giving due importance to mitigation efforts,’ the petitioner recalled.
In Pakistan’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in December 2015 prior to the climate talks in Paris, the government admitted, “Potential for mitigation exists in all sectors of [Pakistan’s] economy” and made the commitment that ‘Pakistan will promote and support low-carbon, climate resilient development’.
“Yet, completely antithetical to these statements and in violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, the government, in its own climate change policy documents and Pakistan’s INDC, promotes and plans for a significant increase in Pakistan’s CO2 emissions through the exploitation of large untapped low-grade coal reserves,” the petitioner argued.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2016.