A 9-Year-Old Girl In India Is Taking Her Government To Task Over Climate Change

"This will impact both me and future generations."

A 9-year-old Indian girl named Ridhima Pandey is fighting for the future of the planet by holding her country accountable for its inaction on climate change.

According to The Independent, Ridhima, who lives in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, recently filed a lawsuit against the Indian government for failing to take action on climate change as promised in its ratification of the Paris Agreement, as well as other environmental laws dating back to the 1980s. India is the fourth-largest carbon emitter in the world according to the EPA, and is home to four of the top 10 cities with the worst air pollution in the world.

The petition, filed in the National Green Tribunal, explains that Ridhima, as a young person, "is part of a class that amongst all Indians is most vulnerable to changes in climate in India yet are not part of the decision making process." She is asking the court to order the government "to take effective, science-based action to reduce and minimise the adverse impacts of climate change," including a carbon budget and climate recovery plan to reduce CO2 emissions.

"My Government has failed to take steps to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing extreme climate conditions. This will impact both me and future generations," Ridhima said, adding that India has "a huge potential to reduce the use of fossil fuels."

The case was filed on Ridhima's behalf by environmental lawyer Rahul Choudhary, who told The Independent, "Children in India are now aware about the issues of climate change and its impact. The Indian constitution says that it is 'the duty of every citizen of India ... to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.'"

Ridhima's father, Dinesh Pandey, has worked 16 years for an environmental NGO in Uttarakhand, which in recent years has been hit with heavy rains, floods, and landslides, with thousands of people having been killed. Pandey said he is "very proud" of his daughter.

"One day, she said to me 'Daddy you raise a lot of these issues and nothing is being done so why are you not raising these issues in the courts?' She then decided she wanted to do it," he told The Independent.

According to Reuters, the Ministry of Environment and the Central Pollution Control Board will respond to the petition in the two-week time frame requested by the tribunal earlier this month.

It's not the first time young people have taken action against the Indian government over this issue. Mashable points out that last year, six teenagers filed a lawsuit over air pollution in India's capital of New Delhi, which has the worst air quality in the country. A similar movement in the United States recently saw 21 young people between the ages of 9 and 20 file a case claiming the government violated their "constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property" in its failure to address global warming.

Cover image: Yvdalmia / Shutterstock

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