A law around low-carbon climate resilient development

A law around low-carbon climate resilient development


In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India has recognized the right to be “free from the adverse impacts of climate change” in the case of M.K. Ranjitsinh and Others vs Union of India, deriving this right from the constitutional guarantees of the right to life and equality.

  • This judgment signifies a crucial step in establishing climate jurisprudence in India, highlighting the pressing need for robust mechanisms to protect this newly recognized right.
  • The debate now revolves around how to enforce this right effectively. While judicial interventions play a role, a comprehensive and systemic approach is essential.
  • This brings to the fore the necessity of climate legislation tailored to the Indian context, presenting both an opportunity and a challenge for the new government.


GS-3 (Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the Issue?
  • Need for Low Carbon Development Body in India
  • Engagement with Federal Structure

What is the Issue?

  • The Supreme Court’s recognition of a right to be free from the adverse impacts of climate change is a significant milestone, but the real challenge lies in operationalizing this right.
  • The current piecemeal judicial interventions are inadequate for the systemic change needed to tackle climate change comprehensively.
  • Hence, there is a compelling case for enacting climate legislation that integrates climate action into the core of development planning, ensuring that all decisions consider their long-term impacts on climate resilience and low-carbon futures.

Need for Low Carbon Development Body in India

  • Reorienting Development: India must reorient its development trajectory towards low-carbon and climate-resilient futures. This means integrating climate objectives into routine decision-making at all levels, ensuring that development advances social justice and addresses the needs of the most vulnerable.
  • Comprehensive Climate Legislation: Climate legislation in India should not only focus on limiting emissions but also on building resilience. This involves creating laws that enable thoughtful decision-making and foster long-term planning to mitigate climate risks and promote sustainable growth.
  • Institutional Framework: Establishing a robust institutional framework is critical. This includes creating an independent ‘low-carbon development commission’ to offer practical solutions for achieving low-carbon growth and resilience, similar to South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission, which engages stakeholders in the transition process.
  • Strategic Governance: A high-level strategic body, termed a ‘climate cabinet,’ should be established. This body, consisting of key ministers and state representatives, would drive climate strategy across government, ensuring coordinated and cohesive action.
  • Knowledge and Expertise: This body should rigorously analyze policy options and their potential futures, providing expert guidance to national and state governments on implementing low-carbon initiatives.
  • Inclusive Decision-Making: Effective climate governance requires inclusive decision-making. Vulnerable communities and those affected by technological changes must be systematically consulted, ensuring that policies reflect diverse perspectives and lead to sustainable outcomes.
  • Federal Coordination: Given India’s federal structure, the climate law must facilitate coordination between central and state governments. This includes creating channels for states to access national scientific expertise and finance local climate actions.

Engagement with Federal Structure

  • Decentralized Responsibilities: Many areas critical to reducing emissions and enhancing resilience, such as electricity, agriculture, water, health, and soil, are managed at the state or local level. Therefore, any climate law must engage subnational governments meaningfully.
  • Scientific Capacity Building: The law should establish mechanisms for states to tap into national scientific resources. This could involve intermediary bodies like the proposed low-carbon development commission, addressing the lack of local climate scientific capacity.
  • Financing Local Actions: Ensuring that centrally-sponsored schemes align with climate goals is crucial. The law could mandate climate tagging of expenditures towards local resilience, making financial resources available for effective local action.
  • Coordination Mechanisms: The law should establish frameworks for continuous consultation between the Centre and states on major climate decisions. This includes periodically updated medium-term climate plans built around unified goals.
  • State-Level Institutions: States should establish complementary institutions to those at the Centre. These would provide knowledge, set strategies, foster deliberation, and coordinate actions, ensuring that state-specific solutions are developed and implemented.

Suggested Measures

  • Strengthening Institutional Framework: Create a robust institutional structure, including a low-carbon development commission and a climate cabinet, to drive climate action across all levels of government.
  • Enhancing Scientific and Technical Expertise: Build a knowledge body within the government to analyze and guide policy decisions, ensuring they align with low-carbon and climate-resilient objectives.
  • Inclusive Policy-Making: Systematically engage vulnerable communities in policy-making processes to ensure that climate policies reflect their needs and perspectives.
  • Federal Coordination and Support: Establish mechanisms for effective coordination between central and state governments, providing states with access to national scientific resources and financial support for local actions.
  • Legal and Policy Reforms: Enact comprehensive climate legislation tailored to the Indian context, incorporating considerations of social equity and long-term sustainability into development planning.

Way Forward

  • The Supreme Court’s recognition of the right to be free from the adverse impacts of climate change opens the door for significant legal and governance reforms. However, to realize this right, India must enact a well-designed climate law tailored to its unique context. This law should reorient development towards low-carbon and climate-resilient futures, driven by a robust institutional framework and inclusive policy-making processes.
  • By integrating climate objectives into core development planning, India can navigate the challenges of climate change while advancing social justice and sustainable growth.
    • The historical pronouncement in M.K. Ranjitsinh and Others vs Union of India sets the stage for these transformative changes, paving the way for a resilient and low-carbon future.