A groundbreaking lawsuit against adolescents opposing the US government from climate change can go on, the Supreme Court said on 2 November. The case, Juliana v. United StatesThe trial was scheduled for October 29 in Eugene, Oregon, in federal court. However, these plans were rejected after President Donald Trump's administration asked the Supreme Court in early October to intervene and dismiss the case.
The plaintiffs, including 21 people aged 11 to 22, claim that the government has violated its constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by not preventing dangerous climate change. They urge the district court to mandate the federal government to develop a plan to ensure that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere falls below 350 parts per million by 2100, compared to 405 parts per million in 2017.
In contrast, the US Department of Justice argues that "there is no right to a" climate system that can sustain human life "as Juliana Claimants claim.
Although the Supreme Court has rejected the Trump government's request to reject the case, the way forward is unclear. In its ruling of November 2, the Supreme Court proposed that a federal appeals court review the administration's arguments before a lawsuit begins in Oregon County Court.
Lawyers for the youths said they would press the Oregon District Court to postpone the hearing for next week.
"The youth of our country today won an important Supreme Court ruling that shows that even the most powerful government in the world must follow the rules and litigation processes in our democracy," said Julia Olson, attorney attorney for a statement issued on the decision of the Supreme Court reacts.
A new generation
Although climate change is a global problem, lawyers around the world have been bringing lawsuits against local and national governments and businesses since the late 1980s. These lawsuits have generally sought to force aggressive climate change policies that are difficult to reach by political means.
Many of the cases have failed, but in 2015 a citizen group called the Urgenda Foundation won a historic victory over the Dutch government. In this case, the judge ordered the Netherlands to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and mentioned the possibility of climate-damaging damage to "present and future generations of Dutch nationals" and the "duty of the government". Beware … to prevent dangerous climate change ". A Dutch appeals court upheld the verdict earlier this month.
In recent years, the Dutch case has emerged as a model for climate action in other countries, says Gillian Lobo, a lawyer specializing in climate change related cases at ClientEarth in London. Recently, she says Juliana The lawsuit has inspired its own imitators – some of whom have progressed further Juliana itself. "It's a global phenomenon," says Lobo.
A case after the model Juliana The lawsuit has already brought an impressive victory. In January, 25 young people sued the Colombian government for their right to a healthy environment Demanda Generaciones Futuras v. Minambiente, The Colombian Supreme Court was in favor of the plaintiffs in April. It not only called on the government to take action to reduce deforestation and climate change, but also that the Amazonian rainforest in Colombia is "an object of rights" that entitles "conservation, conservation, preservation and restoration".
The young plaintiff in the Juliana Case claim that they have already been harmed by climate change. 17-year-old Jaime and her family left their home in the Navajo Reserve in Cameron, Arizona in 2011 because the natural springs they needed to water dried up. The fifteen-year-old Jayden House in Louisiana was severely damaged by floods in 2016, and the 19-year-old Vic School in White Plains, New York, was temporarily closed in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy.
US climate hawks are hoping that Juliana The plaintiffs will eventually prevail, but the administration of President Donald Trump reinforces a multi-level defense. The Department of Justice denies that the district court in Oregon has jurisdiction over the broad range of federal policy in question, and that the rights to life, liberty, and property set forth in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution translate into the right to a stable climate.
In any case, according to the department, no meaningful redress is possible, as the drastic reduction in emissions in the United States may not affect climate change very much as greenhouse gas production by other countries increases. This is in line with the argument made by Supreme Court Supreme Court Justice John Roberts in 2007 when he turned away from the decision of the court majority in a crucial climate case. Massachusetts Vs. Environmental Protection Agency, The ruling of the court, against which Roberts protested, forced the agency to regulate CO2 emissions as a pollutant.
Andrea Rodgers, co-counsel for the Juliana plaintiff, says the Trump administration has not questioned the fact that people are changing the climate. "They have not put forward any experts to deny what our scientists say about ice melting, sea-level rise, or Earth's impact, or climate change or acidification of the oceans," she says.
To win, Rodgers says, "we need to show that the United States government is responsible, but also that there is a means that the judge can order." In the United States, greenhouse gas emissions have declined in recent years as the country shifts its energy mix from coal to renewable sources. From 2016, however, it will remain the second largest issuer after China.
James Hansen, a climatologist at Columbia University in New York City and longtime climate activist, is an expert in this case – but he's also a plaintiff representing "future generations" who are not yet born. (His 20-year-old granddaughter Sophie Kivlehan is also a plaintiff.)
Hansen fights for action against climate change since he testified for the first time before the US Senate in 1988 Juliana The plaintiffs lose their case, he just tries it differently. "We have to win as fast as we can," says Hansen, "but if we lose, we will not give up – we'll come back with a stronger case."