Yesterday, the United States District Court made a groundbreaking decision, offering a ray of hope to children and climate campaigners around the world.
A group of 21 American children is challenging the US federal government over its climate change policies. Now Judge Anne Aiken, of the District of Oregon, has agreed that they have legal standing to do so.
ClientEarth Lawyer Sophie Marjanac said: “The stage is now set for a monumental showdown between President-elect Trump’s administration, the fossil fuel industry and the environment movement. Lawyers for Our Children’s Trust, who brought the case, predict it will be the ‘trial of the century’.
“We will be supporting the youth plaintiffs in any way possible, and call on all climate campaigners to get behind this game-changing lawsuit.”
The decision comes at a crucial moment for the environment, after the election of Donald Trump, a climate denier, to the United States Presidency.
The children claim that by failing to curb US greenhouse gas emissions and causing dangerous climate change, the government is violating their constitutional right to life, liberty and property, as well as the public trust doctrine, which requires the state to protect and maintain certain natural resources for the public’s benefit.
The US and a number of fossil fuel energy interests opposed the case, saying it raised political questions that could not be adjudicated by the courts. The judge dismissed these arguments, saying:
“[There is] no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society. Just as marriage is the “foundation of the family,” a stable climate system is quite literally the foundation “of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”
If there is no appeal of the Judge’s decision, the case is expected to go to trial in 2017. The children are asking for US climate policy to be changed to reduce US emissions and protect future generations.