Addressing Ecological Challenges

“Despite its Own Costs, AI is Promising For Addressing Ecological Challenges.” Sr. Adv. Madhavi Divan at 4th Justice HR Khanna Memorial Symposium

“AI is being utilized to optimize energy consumption in buildings and industries, reducing waste and improving efficiency. Smart grids, powered by AI, can balance electricity supply and demand, integrate renewable energy sources, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.”

-Sr. Adv. Madhavi Divan at 4th Justice H.R. Khanna

Memorial National Symposium

NALSAR University, Hyderabad & DNLU, Jabalpur in collaboration with CAN Foundation, hosted the 4th Justice H. R. Khanna Memorial National Symposium in remembrance of the illustrious persona of Late Justice H.R. Khanna, on 6th July 2024 (Saturday). There were two themes of the symposium with each theme being taken up in different sessions. The 2nd session was on “Perspectives of Legal Dimensions of Climate Change in the 21st Century.

The Session of the Symposium was graced by the presence of HMJ K.V. Viswanathan (Judge, Supreme Court of India), the Presiding Guest at the Symposium and Mrs. Madhavi Divan & Mr. V. Giri (Senior Advocates, Supreme Court), as Panelists of the Session.

Sr. Adv. Madhavi started her address by highlighting how the threat of climate change is not a mirage anymore and how recent events should serve as a wake up call for everyone. Describing the global nature of the crisis, she stated how heat contributed to an annual average of 489,000 deaths globally between 2000 and 2019. She discussed how the climate crisis extends beyond humanitarian emergencies. She quoted an estimate from ‘The Economist’ that estimates that increased temperatures led to 490 billion lost labor hours in 2022 & this is across the world which is an increase of nearly 42% from the annual average about 30 years ago and that of course results in very seriously reduced earnings in in Southeast Asia by almost 5% of the Region’s GDP

Sr. Adv.Madhavi further stated

The economic costs of climate change are enormous. The brunt of economic loss on account of climate change will be felt most severely in tropical countries like ours. Heat has a draining effect on productivity”

Sr. Adv.Divan then discussed how climate change is usually viewed from the narrow prism of right to environment alone. It is, however, also about human rights, cultural rights, and so on. It is something that should not be seen only as environmental as it impacts a wide array of fundamental rights.

She described how catastrophes like floods in Sri Lanka and melting Glaciers in Nepal are affecting communities that are losing their professional means of livelihood. Similar problems can be seen on a Pan-India level, be it the north-east, Mountainous regions Uttarakhand and Himacal or the coastal areas. This leads to a huge onslaught of a migrant population that can destroy the ethnic population of a particular area, and create unemployment, communal tension and so on.

Not only the right to equality, but also the right to life come into play through the right to a clean environment. Moreover, while the Directive Principles of State Policy are not morally enforceable, they do put a strong moral load on the lawmakers to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of resources which does not violate the most basic rights of individuals.

Talking about the future, Sr. Adv. Madhvi discussed the role of Artificial Intelligence to ameliorate the effects of climate change. She said:

“We also know that artificial intelligence is a huge guzzler of energy and therefore it can be quite detrimental to the environment. Artificial intelligence revolutionizes various sectors offering unprecedented capabilities in data analysis in Automation and problem solving however as its applications expand so do concerns about its environmental footprint. So striking a balance between leveraging AI’s potential and mitigating its ecological impact is crucial for sustainable development now the development and deployment of AI technology requires significant computational power including leading to substantial energy consumption.”

Address by Sr. Advocate Mr. V.Giri in the Second Session –

Senior Advocate V. Giri began his discussion by quoting Mahatma Gandhi: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” He then referenced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which defines climate change as a change in climate directly or indirectly caused by human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere, in addition to natural climate variability. Simply put, climate change involves long-term changes in the Earth’s climate, that are warming the atmosphere, oceans, and land.

He emphasized the global recognition of climate change as a pressing issue, calling for “necessary and timely action within a global framework.

He highlighted the adverse effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, ocean acidification, extreme weather events, reduced agricultural productivity, and irreparable damage to ecosystems and biodiversity.

He then discussed the Montreal Protocol, which focused on phasing out substances that deplete the ozone layer, leading to significant recovery of the ozone layer. He also mentioned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s first report in 1990, which stated that greenhouse gases were increasing in the atmosphere due to human activity, resulting in global warming.

He then goes on to discuss the The Kyoto Protocol which aimed to combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and set binding emission reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Community. He also further explained how the Protocol introduced market-based mechanisms such as Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation to provide flexible and cost-effective solutions for meeting these targets.

Then he discusses the Paris Agreement of 2015 which aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

He goes on to highlight India’s efforts to combat climate change through legislation such as the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. He also discussed the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, which was amended to empower the Central Government to provide for a carbon credit trading scheme. He explained how it works:

“for example, a farmer grows a tree that can theoretically remove one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The farmer sells this carbon credit to a steel company, which can then claim that its “net” emissions are its original emissions minus one ton of carbon dioxide.”

He also emphasized that the Indian Constitution contains specific provisions on the environment.

“The Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties state the national commitment to protect and improve the environment.”

He then referenced Article 21 of the Constitution and landmark cases such as Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar and Virendra Gaur v. State of Haryana, where the Supreme Court held that the right to life includes the right to a healthy environment. Additionally, he talked about cases like MC Mehta v. UOI & State of Himachal Pradesh v. Ganesh Wood Products, where the courts ordered industries to follow environmental protection practices and discussed principles like Intergenerational Equity and the Polluter Pays Principle.

He concluded by mentioning the recent case of M K Ranjitsinh v. Union of India, where the Hon’ble Supreme Court interpreted Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution to establish a right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change.

The Entire Session can be viewed at:

SCC-EBC group were the Knowledge Partners of the event with Bar and Bench as the Media Partner.

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