Asia Pacific Judicial Colloquium on Climate Change - Using Constitutions to Advance Environmental Rights and Achieve Climate Justice: Meeting Report and Materials

On 26 and 27 February 2018, the Asia Pacific Judicial Colloquium on Climate Change: Using Constitutions to advance Environmental Rights and Achieve Climate Justice was held in Lahore, Pakistan. The central objective of the colloquium was to assist and build capacity of judiciaries and legal stakeholders in Asia Pacific to implement constitutionally-entrenched environmental rights. It was also to provide materials to contribute to and be used in national judicial training institutes or organizations, and facilitate dialogue on good practices in implementing environmental constitutionalism and advancing climate justice.

The colloquium was attended by more than 300 participants, including senior justices and other legal stakeholders from more than 15 countries across Asia Pacific and globally. The colloquium also brought together a sizeable number of young judges and lawyers from Pakistan.

The event took place at the Pearl Continental Hotel. Over two days, participants engaged in substantive discussions. Day one consisted of a plenary session. Day two featured a panel discussion and two breakout sessions where up to 100 selected participants took an active part in the debates. Topics that were discussed included:

  • Trends in global environmental constitutionalism and climate litigation;
  • The link between constitutionalism, climate change and human rights;
  • The role of judges in recognizing environmental rights and advancing climate justice, considering such issues as separation of powers, standing to sue, environmental rule of law, and the relationship between environmental and other rights;
  • The role of citizens, the public, and NGOs in bringing cases to the courts;
  • The issues of access to justice: costs, standing, statutes of limitations, burdens of proof, interim relief, strategic lawsuits against public participation, access tojustice by vulnerable groups and alternative dispute resolutions mechanisms;
  • Interpretation and application of environmental rights provisions in international, regional, and constitutional law, with attention to how the various layers interrelate with and complement one another; and
  • Remedies and enforcement including, inter alia, the judicial role in coordinating with other branches of government.

The colloquium generated exchanges regarding the role of judges in advancing environmental constitutionalism and climate justice, and identified concrete measures that can be taken by judges, judicial training academies, organizations and other stakeholders to increase the role and impact of judges in advancing climate justice. Four main outcomes can be highlighted:

  • The participants agreed that a 'Lahore Action Plan' be developed as a regional roadmap of action for participating judiciaries and partner organizations regarding strengthening judiciaries with sustainable capacity to adjudicate environment and climate change cases. The present report includes this roadmap.
  • Advocates in the Lahore High Court decided to create Pakistan’s first ever environmental law bar association, the Pakistan Environmental Law Bar Association.
  • The capacity of judges and legal stakeholders in Asia Pacific in applying environmental constitutionalism was enhanced during the colloquium.
  • The partnerships between partner organizations were strengthened during the colloquium.

The meeting was part of a larger programme under the leadership of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Professor John H. Knox, and supported by UN Environment to enhance judicial capacity in environmental constitutionalism, identify gaps and opportunities, and support judges worldwide. It also took place within the framework of ongoing technical assistance by the Asian Development Bank on supporting judges in Asia-Pacific, under the Asian Judges Network on Environment (AJNE), to develop judicial capacity for adjudicating climate change and sustainable development issues. Additionally, the colloquium was an innovative collaboration initiated by partners at Widener University Delaware Law School (USA) and North-West University (South Africa) in conjunction with the New Frontiers in Environmental Constitutionalism conference held in South Africa in 2016, and further developed by the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law and the Global Judicial Institute for the Environment at the Colloquium on Human Rights and the Environment in Brazil in 2017.

The meeting was hosted by the Lahore High Court and organized in partnership with the Punjab Judicial Academy, UN Environment, ADB, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) with support from the Government of Sweden, the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL), the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment (GJIE), the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, and Widener University Delaware Law School.

The objective of this report is to give an overview of the colloquium and to provide training materials to help judges navigate through complex issues to achieve environmental, climate and social justice. The report includes the Lahore Action Plan, summaries of some speaker presentations, and provides a synopsis of environmental constitutionalism and selected landmark judicial decisions.

Date Published

Friday, November 23, 2018

Resource Type

Conference Proceedings






Asian Development Bank (ADB), Delaware Law School, Lahore High Court, Widener University