In 2015, twenty-one young people filed a lawsuit against the United States due to climate change. These young people were supported by civil rights action group Earth Guardians, an organization that helps train youth to become “effective leaders in the environmental, climate, and social justice movements across the globe.” Their complaint? The US government was taking actions that would rob future generations of a healthy and clean planet.
Earlier this year, the three judges who reviewed the case decided 2-1 to repeal the lawsuit. Why? Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge Andrew Hurwitz, who voted to repeal the lawsuit, concluded that the plaintiffs didn’t have the standing to sue. In other words, they didn’t have the right to sue because they aren’t being directly impacted by climate change. Furthermore, their requests of requiring the government to phase out fossil fuels and remove greenhouse gas emissions from the air should come from the legislative branch of government, not the judicial. The outcome of this lawsuit wasn’t what these young climate change activists were hoping for, but it looks like they’re not the only ones fighting to make their government accountable for their actions around climate change.
Recently, youth around the world have taken their countries to court to fight for their rights to live on a cleaner and more habitable planet. From the United Kingdom to Brazil, young people are fighting for Mother Earth, making their voices heard, and forcing their governments to take action on climate change.
The United Kingdom
Adetola Stephanie Onamade, Marina Tricks, and Jerry Amokwandoh, and Plan B (an organization that helps fight against climate change) decided to sue the United Kingdom, claiming that their human rights are being violated because the country has no clear plan of reaching its net zero carbon emissions goal by 2050.
Eight young people sued the Australian government, specifically Environment Minister Sussan Ley. They claim that Ley will be breaching her duty of care to young people if she approves the extension of a coal mining project. How? This coal mining project will release nearly four hundred million tons of carbon emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere over the next twenty-five years and will affect the quality of life of future generations.
Six young climate activists sued the Brazilian government for making changes to their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. Under these changes, the government would be able to emit more greenhouse gas emissions, while still meeting its carbon-cutting targets. These young climate activists are standing up to the government and saying that it can’t trick them when it comes to saving the planet.