Maria Khan et al. v. Federation of Pakistan et al.
Side A: Maria Khan et al. (Individual)
Side B: Federation of Pakistan et al. (Government)
Core objectives: Whether the government of Pakistan's inaction on climate change violated the constitutional rights of women and future generations including the right to a healthy environment and a climate capable of supporting human life
SummaryA coalition of women filed a constitutional petition on their behalf and on behalf of future generations against the Federation of Pakistan. They allege that the federal government’s inaction on climate change violated their fundamental rights including the right to a clean and healthy environment and a climate capable of sustaining human life, (a right which was previously recognized in Asghar Leghari v. Federation of Pakistan 2018 CLD 424). They further argue that since climate change has a disproportionate impact on women, the government’s climate inaction violates plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection under the law and no discrimination on the basis of sex.
Plaintiffs explain that the government specifically has failed to prioritize clean energy projects, even though solar and wind energy has become cheaper than conventional energy, and has not approved any clean energy projects between December 2017 and the filing of the suit. Plaintiffs argue this failure to abate greenhouse gas emissions violates the “clear mandate of the RE Policy 2006, the firm commitments made by the State of Pakistan pursuant to the Paris Agreement and the urgent threat of climate change. Plaintiffs further argue these violations amount to violations of constitutional rights. They state that the superior courts of Pakistan have held that “Fundamental Rights like the right to life and security of person under Articles 4 and 9 [of the constitution] include the right to a healthy and clean environment,” and have also “read” “the right to human dignity under Article 14” “with the constitutional principles of democracy, equality, social, economic and political justice” “including within their ambit the international environmental principles of sustainable development, precautionary principle, environmental impact assessment, inter and intra‑generational equity and public trust doctrine.”
Emissions reductions in the energy sector were critical, according to the petitioners, as the sector was responsible for 47% of Pakistan’s total emissions. In Pakistan’s 2016 NDC, the government committed to a 20% reduction of its 2030 projected GHG emissions. Despite this, petitioners maintained that respondents had neither prioritized clean energy projects nor approved a renewable energy project since December 2017. The petitioners alleged that this failure betrayed the government’s “stated commitment under the Paris Agreement to encourage and foster the development of renewable energy sources”. Khan et al. also argued that the respondents violated the public trust doctrine and principle of intergenerational equity, as well as the concept of climate justice developed in Leghari v. Federation of Pakistan. The petitioners sought orders declaring that the government must support renewable energy projects and enforce the Paris Agreement in letter and spirit.