‘Green New Deal’ crusaders back kids’ climate case

Source: By Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The young activists pushing lawmakers for a “Green New Deal” are throwing their weight behind peers fighting climate change in the courtroom.

The charitable arm of the Sunrise Movement last week urged federal judges to greenlight litigation from 21 kids and young adults attempting to hold the U.S. government accountable for climate change impacts.

The high-stakes lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which could either halt the case or allow a trial to proceed in Oregon.

The so-called kids’ climate case makes a variety of legal arguments, including that the government has violated what the plaintiffs call a constitutional right to a livable climate (Climatewire, Feb. 27).

In its court brief, the Sunrise Movement Education Fund focused on another claim: that the government has fallen short of an alleged public trust duty to protect the atmosphere.

“When the Government harms the youngest of the trust beneficiaries by actively damaging the climate system,” the brief says, “the violation is that much more pronounced as young beneficiaries … will have to endure the harms longer.”

The group was part of a flock of supporters who filed amicus briefs Friday on the young plaintiffs’ side.

Another youth-led brief came from Zero Hour, an organization founded by 17-year-old Washington state resident Jamie Margolin, who last year helped wage an unsuccessful legal battle against the state for inadequate climate action.

More than 30,000 young people signed on to a brief coordinated by Zero Hour in an aggressive social media campaign.

Also supporting the kids: Democratic members of Congress, national and international environmental groups, major public health organizations, academics, ski resort companies, and others.

The federal government has steadfastly rejected the youth plaintiffs’ arguments under both the Trump and Obama administrations, maintaining that the purported constitutional and public trust claims are unfounded, and that climate policy must be decided in the executive and legislative branches rather than the courts.

The 9th Circuit is set to hear arguments in the appeal this summer.