In Leghari v. Pakistan, a farmer claimed that his fundamental rights, including the right to life, the right to a healthy environment and human dignity, had been violated by the failure to take action against climate change, which was already impacting Pakistan in the form of floods and other climactic changes. The High Court of Lahore granted his claims in 2015, finding that the government had failed to implement its own Climate Change Policy and the corresponding implementation framework. The Court created a Climate Change Commission to monitor the government’s response.
Arguments by the applicant:
The applicant submitted that the domestic National Climate Change Policy of 2012 and the Framework for its implementation had not been implemented. Absent strategies to transition to heat resilient crops or to conserve water, he argued, he would not be able to sustain his livelihood as a farmer. He submitted that this inaction had violated his fundamental rights, in particular, Article 9 (right to life, including the right to a healthy and clean environment) and Article 14 (human dignity) of the Constitution, along with the constitutional principles of social and economic justice. In doing so, he also invoked the principles of public trust, sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the principle of intergenerational equity. The most immediate and serious threat to Pakistan, he argued, concerned water, food and energy security.
The High Court of Lahore granted Mr. Leghari’s claims on 4 September 2015, finding that “the delay and lethargy of the State in implementing the Framework offend the fundamental rights of the citizens.” It ordered the government to nominate “climate change focal persons” to help ensure the implementation of the domestic legal Framework and to identify action points. To monitor the government’s progress, it also created a Climate Change Commission made up of government representatives, NGOs, and technical experts. A supplemental decision of 14 September 2015 nominated 21 Commission members and granted this body various powers. On 25 January 2018, the Court considered a report from the Climate Change Committee finding that, until January 2017, 66% of the Framework for Implementation Climate Change Policy’s priority actions had been implemented. The Court accordingly dissolved the Climate Change Commission, creating a Standing Committee on Climate Change in its place.
In the 2018 judgment, the Court considered the need for environmental, climate and water justice, and the need for both mitigation and, in the specific case of Pakistan, adaptation measures in response to climate change. It noted that “we have to move on. The existing environmental jurisprudence has to be fashioned to meet the needs of something more urgent and overpowering i.e., Climate Change.” (para. 12). It held, too, that “[f]rom Environmental Justice, which was largely localized and limited to our own ecosystems and biodiversity, we have moved on to Climate Justice.” (para. 20).
Birsha Ohdedar, ‘Climate Change Litigation in India and Pakistan: Analyzing Opportunities and Challenges’, in Ivano Alogna, Christine Bakker, and Jean-Pierre Gauci (eds), Climate Change Litigation: Global Perspectives (Brill | Nijhoff 2021), 103-123, https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004447615_006.
Ivan Mark Ladores, ‘In the Name of Climate Change: How Leghari v Federation of Pakistan is Instrumental to the Pursuit of the Right to Life in the Philippines’, 5(2) Groningen Journal of International Law (2017), https://doi.org/10.21827/5a6af9f49574a.
Emily Barritt and Boitumelo Sediti, ‘The Symbolic Value of Leghari v Federation of Pakistan: Climate Change Adjudication in the Global South’ 30(2) King’s Law Journal (2019) 203-210, 10.1080/09615768.2019.1648370.
Lahore High Court, Asghar Leghari v. Pakistan, Case W.P. No. 25501/2015, Judgment of 25 January 2018.