Making science work for development

Environmental Adjudication in the Anthropocene

12 October 2017
London

The age of Anthropocene has brought with it multiple challenges that disrupt Earth system processes resulting in the planet becoming increasingly dangerous, unpredictable, unstable and incompatible with human existence. The role of a specialised, responsive and transformative judiciary is critical in recognising, developing and interpreting environmental laws moving, albeit slowly, from an anthropocentric to an eco-centric approach. Facilitating innovative judicial leadership in the Anthropocene epoch requires the judiciary to reframe its thinking, and the application of environmental principles and adjudicatory processes at international and domestic fora. Centralising scientific experts (an epistemic community) within an adjudicatory setup would determine pathways and provide future course of actions for a collective, symbiotic, inter-disciplinary, wise and timely decision-making. This would harmonise legal norms with scientific knowledge and promote ecological justice aimed at protecting and respecting the Earth and its system and ensuring equitable and social welfare of the people. India’s green judiciary, in particular the National Green Tribunal (NGT), is an example of its transitional move through substantive and procedural creativity in the current socio-ecological crisis. The juristic and scientific interventions through interpretation of environmental constitutionalism alongside participatory and access rights provide responses and offer some redress resulting in an incremental move towards an ecological nature based policy orientated approach. It has resulted in ground breaking, new insights about the appropriateness and feasibility of ecological discourse. The Indian judiciary is unlikely to be the panacea for all environmental ills but it can provide a lead in terms of transforming environmental adjudication in the Anthropocene.