Youth activists win groundbreaking lawsuit against state government for ignoring climate change
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The discussion around climate change is a never-ending one, and one that can certainly cause debate among friends and family.
A group of young activists were so enraged by Montana's state government that they filed a lawsuit as they felt it was ignoring climate change.
The case made headlines not just in the US but also internationally, and involved 16 plaintiffs that ranged from the very young age of five up to 22.
Back in June, in what was a truly monumental trial, the plaintiffs claimed that state agencies were violating provisions in the state's constitution that guarantee a 'clean and healthful environment' through the use of fossil fuels.
On Monday (13 August), the judge ruled in favor of the young activists.
In fact, the plaintiffs' lawyers said that the victory was a 'game-changer' and a 'sweeping win', adding that the ruling will hopefully give light to similar cases tackling the climate crisis in the US and beyond.
Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley declared in court that Montana has been contributing to the climate crisis.
“Montana’s (greenhouse gas) emissions and climate change have been proven to be a substantial factor in causing climate impacts to Montana’s environment and harm and injury to the youth plaintiffs,” the judge wrote in her ruling.
Melissa Hornbein, an attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center representing the plaintiffs, told The Guardian: "My initial reaction is, we’re pretty over the moon. It’s a very good order."
Meanwhile, Julia Olson, who founded Our Children’s Trust, a non-profit law firm working alongside Western Environmental Law Center on the case, was equally pleased with the judge's verdict.
She said: "In a sweeping win for our clients, the Honorable Judge Kathy Seeley declared Montana’s fossil fuel-promoting laws unconstitutional and enjoined their implementation.
"As fires rage in the west, fueled by fossil fuel pollution, today’s ruling in Montana is a game-changer that marks a turning point in this generation’s efforts to save the planet from the devastating effects of human-caused climate chaos."
Even though it’s up to the state Legislature to determine how to bring the policy into compliance, Olson spoke about her hope that Monday's verdict will bolster other cases.
"This is a huge win for Montana, for youth, for democracy, and for our climate," she said.
"More rulings like this will certainly come."
In fact, other climate change cases are going on around the US right now, some of which led by youth activists.
Also brought by Our Children’s Trust, climate lawsuits are pending in four other states, with one of those cases brought by Hawaii youth plaintiffs.
Last week, attorneys announced that suit is set to go to trial in June 2024.