People’s Right to Clean Air
A United Nations special rapporteur wrote his opinion to the Central Jakarta District Court, which has yet to rule on a lawsuit filed by Jakartans over polluted air. The judges need to care more about the environment.
THE judges at the Central Jakarta District Court should consider expert opinion from the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur when hearing the lawsuit filed by citizens over air pollution. A total of 32 Jakartans filed a lawsuit against seven parties seen as bearing responsibility for the pollution of the capital’s air last year.
David R Boyd, UN special rapporteur and environmental expert from the University of British Columbia, Canada, sent an expert opinion, or amicus curiae, to the court on November 15. In the letter dated October 9, he stated that the judges had not passed a ruling despite 16 months having passed. Boyd asked the judges to consider the ruling based on fundamental rights and jurisprudence from other nations in finding for the citizens regarding the government’s obligation to ensure clean air.
According to Boyd, the lawsuit filed by the Jakarta residents has a scientific basis. It is easy to measure the level of pollution in Jakarta’s air using the measuring equipment at various locations in the city. This equipment can be linked to the AirVisual app which can be accessed from smartphones. There is no reason for the judges to delay passing a ruling so that the Jakarta government and other responsible parties can immediately take action to reduce pollution
Amicus curiae—Latin for “friends of the court”—is an intervention by a group or individual not involved in a case but that have a strong interest in helping the search for justice. The practice is usually used in countries that use the Anglo-Saxon legal system. Indonesia uses the Continental system that does not include it, but it is recognized by positive laws such as Law No. 48/2009 on the powers of judges
The most recent amicus curiae was filed by the Association for the Renewal of Law based on the People and Ecology (HuMa) at the State Administrative Court on September 21. They asked the judges to revoke the letter sent by President Joko Widodo along with the job creation bill to the House of Representatives. In other words, the letter from Boyd is nothing new and is appropriate for inclusion in the judge’s considerations.
Judges need to pay more attention to environmental issues, including air pollution. Clean air is the people’s right, even though the government is continuing to push for physical development, which frequently leads to a reduction in green space in cities. This citizens’ lawsuit filed against state administrators over the pollution in the capital city should be used to ensure that the right to clean air is upheld.
Among the sources of Jakarta’s pollution are the 17 million vehicles that use the capital’s 7,000 kilometers of roads every day. The emissions from these vehicles are equivalent to 182 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. This means that Jakarta needs 6.4 million rain trees to absorb it.
Greening, traffic management and a policy obliging industry to use environmentally friendly energy sources are the best ways to reduce pollution. Beijing in China and Fukuoka in Japan successfully used these three ways to reduce pollution. A mothers’ movement in Fukuoka that began in 1965 and is still pushing for environmentally friendly policies resulted in the world’s dirtiest city winning a UN prize as the world’s cleanest city in 1995.
The song Aozora ga Hoshii (Bring Back our Blue Skies) now has to been sung in every school. Like in Beijing, the administration forced the automotive industry, ceramics factories and the steel industry to move to green energy sources and worked with them by providing funds to clean the soot from the city. As well as considering the opinion of David R Boyd, the judges at the Central Jakarta District Court should learn from these cities.