District Court ruled there is a fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining life

The case includes a number of Catholic youth.

San Francisco, CA – Today, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide – US (ELAW) filed an amicus curiae brief to support the youth plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States and the denial of the Trump Administration’s extraordinary petition to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to end the lawsuit before a trial on the merits. The amicus brief argues that evolving international law and foreign jurisprudence supports the right to a climate system capable of supporting human life.

In 2015, youth supported by Our Children’s Trust filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against the United States. Last year, the Oregon District Court denied the government’s motion to dismiss and set a February 2018 trial date. Earlier this summer the government filed a petition with the Ninth Circuit to stop the case before it sees a courtroom.

“The government’s attempt to circumvent the judicial process and avoid discovery is inappropriate, misguided, and should be denied,” said Erika Lennon, Senior Attorney at CIEL. “Climate change is affecting–and violating–people’s rights, and it is the government’s duty to protect those rights. The government’s implicit argument that this is untrue is troubling and has potentially catastrophic implications beyond this case. The youth plaintiffs deserve to have their case heard, and the Ninth Circuit should not facilitate the government’s attempt to deny them this.”

When the District Court ruled that this case could continue, it found that there was a fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining life. In its petition, the government argued that the District Court committed clear error, which implies that the government does not have a duty to its citizens to ensure a climate system capable of sustaining human life. The amicus demonstrates that climate change impacts human rights, that evolving international law and foreign jurisprudence recognizes this link between climate change and human rights, and that governments have a duty to reduce or redress these impacts.

The Ninth Circuit should find that the District Court did not err when it recognized the plaintiffs’ right to a climate system capable of supporting human life.  The U.S. has a duty to meet its international obligations and it is reasonable for U.S. courts to follow the lead of international human rights bodies and courts in other countries to recognize that the right to life inherently includes the right to a livable planet,”  explains ELAW Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason.

“We were pleased to advance a legal cause that is vitally important for today’s climate and gravely urgent for future generations,” said David Hunter, director of American University Washington College of Law’s Program on International and Comparative Environmental Law, and one of the attorneys who filed today’s brief.

The amicus brief argues that the youth plaintiffs should be allowed to take discovery from the Trump Administration and present their case in the district court. Climate change is happening and it is impairing human rights; the courts can and should hear the merits of this case. Accordingly, it calls on the Ninth Circuit to reject the Trump Administration’s attempts to use an extraordinary measure in this way and to deny its writ of mandamus petition.

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) uses international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building.

The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide U.S. (ELAW) serves as the Secretariat of a global network of public interest environmental lawyers.  ELAW is a non-profit organization that has been collaborating with lawyers in 80 countries to defend the rights of communities for more than 25 years.

Media Contacts: 

Erika Lennon, Senior Attorney, CIEL

Office +1 202-742-5856, Mobile +1-202-656-1267, elennon@ciel.org

Jennifer Gleason, Staff Attorney, ELAW

Office +1-541-687-8454 x 103, Mobile +1-541-554-5477, jen@elaw.org

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s