Can climate litigation save the world? [March 2018] 
Litigation represents a new front of climate action, with citizens aiming to force stronger moves to cut carbon emissions, and win damages to pay the costs of dealing with the impacts of warming. Cases are being brought across the globe, with more than 1,000 suits now logged by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia law school in New York. Further cases are under way from India to Uganda, and across Europe. In Colombia, 25 young plaintiffs are talking to the courts to halt deforestation.  link


Latest news:

April 16 2018: Kids file suit against Florida governor. The case argues that Florida is violating the public trust by failing to protect certain essential natural resources for future generations. link

April 12 2018: Juliana Lawsuit date announced.  U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon, will begin hearing evidence October 29. There will be no jury.   link  

April 6 2018: Colombia's top court orders government to protect Amazon forest in landmark case. 25 young plaintiffs in Colombia, (ages from 7 to 26) win lawsuit against the government demanding it protect their right to a healthy environment. The plaintiffs said the government’s failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon jeopardized their futures and violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water.  link



  • Juliana lawsuit
  • ClientEarth
  • Actions around the world
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Juliana lawsuit

Juliana lawsuit can proceed
March 7 2018: Trial can move ahead as court rules against government.
The federal government’s request to halt the lawsuit “is entirely premature,” wrote the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case will probably proceed before the Oregon federal court, where the case was originally filed. Discovery is expected to take six months and a trial to begin after that.  link

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  The litigation, ignited by Our Children's Trust in 2015, relies on the public trust doctrine, a legal canon that stresses the government's hold on resources such as land, water or fisheries as treasure for the people. The children's lawsuits extend that principle by asserting the government also is a trustee of the atmosphere.

December 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 

June 2017: Judge 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

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

January 2018: Young Colombians file landmark climate lawsuit.  A group of young Colombians, one as young as seven, filed a lawsuit against the Colombian government on Monday demanding it protect their right to a healthy environment in what campaigners said was the first such action in Latin America. The lawsuit, filed at a Bogota court, alleges the government's failure to stem rising deforestation in Colombia puts their future in jeopardy and violates their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water. link

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


Copyright 2008 thinkglobalgreen.org   All Rights Reserved