Kids around the world are suing their governments for ruining the planet. Kids around the world are asking governments this question and demanding answers in court. For example, on Dec. 11, Juliana v. US,  pitted the president and American lawmakers against the very children whose future they so often invoke when seeking votes. The kids argued that the government’s negligence in caring for the planet impedes on their rights, and it must remedy this by adopting policies that mitigate climate change.

Dec. 22 2017: The most important environmental case of the century. If District Court Judge Aiken’s opinion is upheld in the current case, then it will arguably be on its way to becoming the most important environmental case of the century. The question in the current conflict is who would prevail - the District Court or the Trump administration? link 
Part 2: What if the case proceeds?
What distinguishes 
Juliana v. U.S. from all the cases that have gone before is the opportunity it offers to elevate environmental protection to a Constitutional right. link



  • Juliana lawsuit
  • ClientEarth
  • Actions around the world

Juliana lawsuit

The climate change lawsuit the Trump administration is desperate to stop going to trial. (March 2017) A groundbreaking climate lawsuit, brought against the federal government by 21 children, has been hailed by environmentalists as a bold new strategy to press for climate action in the United States. But the Trump administration, which has pledged to undo Barack Obama’s climate regulations, is doing its best to make sure the case doesn’t get far. The Trump administration this week filed a motion to overturn a ruling by a federal judge  in November 2016 that cleared the lawsuit for trial, and filed a separate motion to delay trial preparation until that appeal is considered. The lawsuit, the first of its kind, argues the federal government has violated the constitutional right of the 21 plaintiffs to a healthy climate system. Environmental groups say the case, if it’s successful, could force even a reluctant government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take other measures to counter warming. link

Latest news:

Dec. 11 2017: Federal appeals court oral arguments now ongoing. Two of three judges are dubious about goveernmnet's case - link (The trial date isset for Feb. 5, 2018, in Eugene, Oregon)

June 29 2017: Trial date set for Juliana climate lawsuit. The trial will start February 5, 2018. The judge also agreed to let the country’s biggest fossil fuel lobbies withdraw from the case, which may shield them from having to turn over documents.  link

June 2017: A federal judge has denied the Trump administration’s appeal in a climate change lawsuit, paving the way for the unprecedented suit to go to trial. link

The federal lawsuit, Juliana et al v. United States, (also known as the Children’s Climate Change Lawsuit) was brought in August 2015 on behalf of 21 youths, aged 9 to 21 (2016), over the federal government's alleged failure to rein in fossil fuel development and address climate change. (The eldest plaintiff of a group of nearly two dozen s 21-year old Kelsey Juliana.) On November 10, 2016 Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon issued an opinion and order denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The case is now headed for trial in November 2017. Judge Aiken said, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” 

What is the lawsuit about?

The Children’s Climate Change lawsuit is based on a legal concept called the public trust doctrine, which argues that the government holds resources such as land, water or fisheries in trust for its citizens. Climate litigators contend that the government is a trustee of the atmosphere, too. The doctrine's power flows from the Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and the Vesting, Posterity and Nobility Clauses of the Constitution, the plaintiffs maintain. The plaintiffs in Juliana argue that the federal government has known for at least 50 years that combustion of fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and damages the climate. Because it chose to take actions to promote and subsidize fossil fuel use and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions, the government violated their right to protection from environmental degradation under the trust doctrine, the suit alleges. 

See also:
Our Children's Trust: full coverage  -  link
Inside Climate News analysis - link
November 2016 Judge Aiken ruling - pdf

                                                    Client Earth

ClientEarth works to protect the environment through advocacy, litigation and science. We base our strategic decisions on the best research and policy analysis. We act on legal opportunities, whether influencing decision-makers or in court. Strong laws are the best tools we have to protect the environment. By combining our legal expertise with scientific understanding, we work to tackle issues ranging from climate change to habitat loss, air pollution to deforestation. link

James Thornton is the founding CEO of ClientEarth. James founded ClientEarth, Europe’s first public interest environmental law organization, in 2007. Now operating globally, it uses advocacy, litigation and research to address the greatest challenges of our time, including biodiversity loss, climate change, and toxic chemicals. Its work is always built on solid law and science. The New Statesman has named him as one of 10 people who could change the world. link

September 2017: James Thornton’s connection to China. “I have no cynicism about whether they mean to do it. My job is to try and clean up the environment for future generations. The Chinese really want to do that.” This task, apparently insurmountable for the west, is made possible by China’s 2,500-year tradition of centralised government. “They said, we have a long-term vision, we want to be here in another 2,000 years and that will only happen if we clean up the environment. So we have determined that we’re going to deal with our environmental problems and we’re going to do so in a very thoroughgoing way.” link

                                             Actions around the world

December 2017: Democratic attorneys general take on Trump. State attorneys general have filed nearly two dozen lawsuits, about two a month, against the federal government, seeking to uphold legal protections of the environment and climate. link  

PLAN B – UK action group. The UK Government knows its carbon target for 2050 doesn’t align to science or its legal obligations, and that it’s not enough to keep us safe. So twelve of us (aged 9 to 79) are taking them to court.  PLAN B is a charity committed to holding governments and other to account for their contribution to climate change, and to supporting the emergence of a global movement of climate litigation. link

September 2017: Portuguese schoolchildren seeking action from European court of human rights. Portuguese schoolchildren from the area struck by the country’s worst forest fires are seeking crowdfunding to sue 47 European countries, alleging that the states’ failure to tackle climate change threatens their right to life.link (October update: Fundraising target reached - link)

In 2015, environmental plaintiffs in the Netherlands, South Africa and Pakistan, as well as Massachusetts and Washington state, won similar human rights or constitutional cases that force authorities to more aggressively cut carbon emissions.  

June 2015: Dutch government ordered to cut carbon emissions in landmark ruling. link
March 2017: How climate change battles are increasingly being fought, and won, in court - link   
May 2016: Children win another climate change legal case in Massachusetts supreme court - link


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