Our Children’s Trust, an advocacy group that was formed by 21 young people, aged between 9 and 21, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon back in 2015. Their lawsuit is based on the claim that the federal government’s promotion of fossil fuel production and disregard of the risks posed by greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in a dangerous destabilization of the globe’s climate system. To put it in simple words: the policy that the government has chosen is endangering young people’s fundamental constitutional right to life, liberty, and property. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/kids-sue-us-government-climate-change/) In the face of countless attempts by the government and the fossil fuel industry to find a way to dismiss this case, the young people involved have stood their ground and now seem more likely than ever to triumph, as Judge Ann Aiken denied the Trump administration’s motion seeking dismissal of this constitutional climate change lawsuit on June 8th.
Judge Aiken explained her decision in this case by stating that this is not your typical environmental case and continued: “It alleges that defendant’s actions and inactions – whether or not they violate any specific statutory duty – have so profoundly damaged our planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty”. (http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-teen-agers-suing-over-climate-change) Just how serious their work is and how close they are to reaching their goal is demonstrated by the latest move from the Trump Administration, which is trying to get the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the federal climate lawsuit by asking for a writ of mandamus, a rarely used legal maneuver that occurs when a higher court basically tells a lower court that its decision is invalid.
Now one must ask why the Trump administration is prepared to take such an extraordinary step in order to prevent this case from proceeding, because in the words of legal experts, this move is characterized as offensive to Judge Aiken, to the entire federal judiciary, and to the rule of law itself. When the lawsuit was filed, three industry participants – the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers – demanded standing to defend their interests in this case, but as an outcome of recent events they are now seeking a way to back out.
The young people who united for this cause will have to wait for the final verdict and hope that their trial will proceed as it could start as early as the summer of 2017. Hopefully their story will be a successful one as cases like these have been won in the Netherlands, Pakistan, Austria, and South Africa, and similar cases are currently being presented in Belgium and New Zealand.