Lahore Hosts Asia Pacific Judicial Colloquium: Applying Environmental Constitutionalism for Climate Justice

Senior Judges in the Asia Pacific region convened with eminent legal and policy experts from around the world on 26-27 February 2018 in Lahore, Pakistan to increase dialogue and build the capacity of judges to use constitutions to advance environmental rights and achieve climate justice.

Asia Pacific Judicial Colloquium

The Asia Pacific Judicial Colloquium on Climate Change: Using Constitutions to Advance Environmental Rights and Achieve Climate Justice was hosted by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on 26-27 February 2018. The meeting was the third part of a regional series promoted by the Environmental Rights Initiative supported by UN Environment under the leadership of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox, and took place within the framework of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Asian Judges Network on the Environment (AJNE). Several members of WCEL and the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment (GJIE)  Interim Governing Committee contributed their expertise over the course of the seven sessions by sharing experiences and identifying opportunities to enhance judicial capacity in environmental constitutionalism to specifically address the threat of climate change.

The Colloquium started on 26 February with welcoming remarks from Justice Yaawar Ali, Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court; Elizabeth Mrema, Director of the Law Division, UN Environment and WCEL Steering Committee Member; and Sunil Mitra, Deputy Country Director, Pakistan Resident Mission, ADB. Professor James R. May, Widener University Delaware Law School and WCEL Member then provided participants with an introduction of the topics and planned discussions (For a copy of the program, see here). A special video address was then given by Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, Member of the National High Court of Brazil, WCEL Chair, and Member of the GJIE Interim Governing Committee, conveying the importance of the GJIE to support judges in achieving environmental justice. The session concluded with an address by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Member of Supreme Court of Pakistan and Member of the GJIE Interim Governing Committee, entitled "Environmental and Climate Justice - A perspective from Pakistan" (For a text of the address, see "Downloads" section of this website).

Building upon the guidance of UN Environment's Judicial Handbook on Environmental Constitutionalism indicating that nearly 100 national constitutions guarantee environmental rights in some form, the first day of the Colloquium featured topics and speakers including:

  • "The Interdependence of Human Rights and the Environment" by Professor John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment;
  • "Judicial Commissions and Climate Justice in Pakistan" by Dr. Parvez Hassan, Chairperson, Pakistan Climate Change Commission and WCEL Chair Emeritus (For a text of the address, see "Downloads" section of this website); 
  • "Climate Justice for Future Generations" by Antonio Oposa, Jr., Environmental Lawyer, Philippines and WCEL Member;
  • "Climate Justice and the Global Pact for the Environment" by Lord Robert Carnwath, Justice of the UK Supreme Court and Member of the GJIE Interim Governing Committee (For a text of the address, see "Downloads" section of this website); 
  • “Global and Regional Developments” by Justice Tassaduq Jilani, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan;
  • "Recent Climate Litigation Concerning Environmental Rights" by Justice Brian Preston, Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court, NSW, Australia and Member of the GJIE Interim Governing Committee;
  • "Climate Change and Vulnerable Groups - Global and Regional Developments" by Irum Ahsan, Senior Counsel, Law and Policy Reform at ADB;
  • "Constitutionalism and Climate Justice" by Professor James R. May, Widener University Delaware Law School and WCEL Member;
  • "Climate-induced migration, justice and the courts" by Professor Ben Boer, University of Sydney Law School, Research Institute of Environmental Law at Wuhan University, and former WCEL Deputy Chair; and
  • "Intersections of Climate Justice and Human Rights: Lessons from South Asia" by Dr. Sumudu Anopama Atapattu, Director of Research Centers and Senior Lecturer at University of Wisconsin Law School, Affiliated Professor with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute;

The second day began with WCEL Deputy Chair Professor Denise Antolini providing participants with additional details about WCEL and the GJIE, as well as discussing her home state of Hawai'i as an "Eye of the Climate Crisis," and the current state of US climate leadership. Professor Erin Daly, Widener University Delaware Law School and WCEL Member, then highlighted aspects for breakout discussions to focus on the interrelation of environmental constitutional provisions in international, regional, national, and subnational law; implementation and interpretation of constitutional provisions, and how such provisions can be used for climate justice. Following breakout session reports to the plenary, a panel discussed issues for "Judges, the Environment, and Access to Justice in Asia Pacific". Speakers included:

  • Justice Jawad Hassan, Lahore High Court, Pakistan;
  • Judge Fleur Kingham, President of the Land Court of Queensland, Australia;
  • Marlene Oliver, Former Environment Commissioner, New Zealand; and
  • Justice Mariano Del Castillio, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines.

Breakout sessions then convened to consider "Judicial Remedies and Enforcement", with the following speakers including:

  • Saima Amin Khawaja, Managing Partner Progressive Advocates and Legal Consultants, Pakistan; and
  • Professor Qin Tianbao, Research Institute of Environmental Law at Wuhan University and WCEL Member, speaking on "Climate Litigation: A Suitable Discourse for China's Green Courts".

In a final session, next steps, conclusions, and recommendations were summarized by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah; Professor John Knox; Andy Raine, Regional Coordinator for Environmental Law and Governance, UN Environment and WCEL Member; and Irum Ahsan. The Colloquium was closed with remarks by Justice Muhammad Anawaarul Haq of the Lahore High Court; Nils Henrik Rolf Ring, Deputy Director, Raoul Wallenberg Institute; and Elizabeth Mrema.

WCEL congratulates all co-sponsors and partners in this very important Colloquium:

More information on the event can be found at: 

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