WEBINAR: Human Rights Strategies in Climate Change Litigation – A South Asian Perspective

On 2 July 2020, the GNHRE hosted the second of its webinar series, “Human Rights Strategies in Climate Change Litigation Across the Globe”. The second webinar focused on human rights and climate change litigation in South Asia.

You can watch the recording of the webinar here: Human Rights Strategies in Climate Change Litigation – South Asian Perspective

In this webinar, we brought together experts from around the region to discuss how human rights principles and actions are used (or not) to advance claims aimed at mitigating or adapting to climate change.

Despite being at the forefront of public interest litigation and environmental pollution cases, climate change litigation in South Asia is in its nascent stage. Surya Deva examined some of these early climate change cases and draw some general lessons. He considered factors which are likely to intensify climate change litigation in South Asia in future.

Sanjay Upadhyay asked whether human rights arguments are being adequately used in climate litigation and suggests that they are not. More often than not, intergenerational rights or compliance frameworks are being used for climate litigation. More empirical research on human rights approaches is required. Upadhyay also argued that work needs to be done on the issue of climate liability from a human rights perspective for more effective climate litigation.

On the other hand, Nepal provides one example of an integrated approach to climate change policy. Tara Prasad Sapkota focused on the policies, strategies, action plans and judicial decisions of the Supreme Court of Nepal. Nepal has several policy instruments to address the climate change issue. Together these instruments make-up the framework for strategies for climate change litigation.

About the Speakers:

Prof. Surya Deva

Surya Deva is an Associate Professor at the School of Law of City University of Hong Kong, and a member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Prof Deva’s primary research interests lie in Business and Human Rights, India-China Constitutional Law, and Sustainable Development. He is one of the founding Editors-in-Chief of the Business and Human Rights Journal, and sits on the Editorial/Advisory Board of the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, the Vienna Journal on International Constitutional Law, the Indian Law Review, and the Australian Journal of Human Rights. Prof Deva is an elected member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Constitutional Law (2018-22).

Mr. Sanjay Upadhyay

Sanjay Upadhyay is an advocate of the Supreme Court of India and the founder and managing partner of India’s first environmental law firm, Enviro Legal Defence. Sanjay has been practicing environmental and development law since 1993. He was a visiting fellow at the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley (Fall 1996) and a legal intern to the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund, San Francisco, a Global Fellow in Marine Policy at the Duke University, North Carolina. Sanjay has served as an environmental and development law expert to a number of international, multilateral, national and state institutions including the World Bank, ADB, IUCN, DFID, AFD,FAO, UNDP, IIED, ODI to name a few. He has served on drafting committees of several laws related to environmental laws.

Prof. Tara Prasad Sapkota

Tara Prasad Sapkota holds a Ph.D Degree in Environmental Law from Nagoya University, Japan, an LL.M Degree in International Law from Nagoya University, Japan, and Master’s Degree in Political Science from Tribhuvan University. He was also research fellow of Bergen University, Norway in 2013. Currently, he is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nepal, Member of the IUCNWCEL and Member of IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, a member of the Access to Justice Commission of the Supreme Court of Nepal, a member of the Tribhuvan University Center Environmental Law (TUCEL), Faculty of Law, Nepal, coordinator of the Environmental Law Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Nepal. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Law, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu from January 2014-December 2018.

The Webinar was moderated by Dr. Uday Shankar, Associate Professor, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India.

Astrid Milena Bernal

By Astrid Milena Bernal

Astrid Milena Bernal Rubio is a Colombian environmental lawyer and a PhD-Law student at the University of Melbourne - Climate Futures Center. Formerly LL.M student at Pennsylvania State University (concentrations in International Law and Energy and Environmental Law). She is also a lawyer from the Universidad Católica de Colombia, a Magister in Environmental Law from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Specialist in human rights and critical legal studies from the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) Latin American School of Public Policy- ELAP.

As part of the technical team of GFLAC (climate finance group for Latin America and the Caribbean), she supported the creation of the MRV system (monitoring, reporting and verification) for climate finance in Colombia. In addition, she has been a consultant for the WRI (World Resources Institute) and The Access Initiative (TAI), working as the National researcher for the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI). Also, she has worked as a consultant for AVINA Foundation, The Bogotá’s drainage and sewerage company (EAAB), Green Faith (NY based NGO), Brighter Green (NY based NGO) and worked as Campaign coordinator against unsustainable livestock production at the Global Forest Coalition. Astrid has worked as a lawyer and researcher on issues associated with public participation, access to information, forests, carbon markets, Just Energy transition and rights of indigenous peoples and rural communities in Colombia.

Astrid was a volunteer for the Network for Environmental Justice in Colombia and promoted the creation and growth of the climate justice division at the Environment and Society Association (AAS) of Colombia. Astrid was a senior research coordinator in a joint research project with UNICEF to contribute to the fulfilment of the SDGs (6), focusing its work on guaranteeing the rights of access to sanitation for rural, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations in Colombia. She is also part of the founders of the Colombian NGO- CAMBIUM (Climate, Environment and Research-Action Uniting Worlds). This organization aims to, directly and indirectly, influence processes carried out by civil society and decision-makers related to climate change.

Astrid also supported the work of Pivot Point and the CLARA group (Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance), promoting the understanding and participation of CSOs to ensure higher ambition of NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) in Spanish speakers countries through the website

Astrid was a research assistant at Penn State University identifying how different kinds of transboundary river basin organizations have written and used dispute resolution mechanisms in both the bilateral agreements between the US, Mexico and Canada (NAFTA-USMCA) and the Autonomous Binational Authority of the Basin of Lake Titicaca (Bolivia, Peru).

Astrid was one of the members of the core team in the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), and she is part of the global network of environmental lawyers (ELAW). In her free time, she collaborates as a volunteer for The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition- CAIR coalition.