OCT Sept. 2016 Courthouse Steps

Project Report:
Our Children's Trust: Atmospheric Trust Campaign
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


We support a network of youth, scientists, economists and experts from multiple disciplines, to bring about macro governmental action at the federal, state, local and global domestic levels that drives systemic market incentives and public policy to place our society on a scientific prescription for atmospheric health and climate stability.


Our Children’s Trust (“OCT”) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, headquartered in Eugene, OR. We are leading a global effort elevating the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate system. Specifically, OCT supports youth climate advocates, related organizations, and volunteer and reduced-fee legal counsel in the U.S. and around the globe, in legal actions against federal and state governments, seeking science-based Climate Recovery Plans to return atmospheric CO2 concentrations to below 350 parts per million before the year 2100.

We have legal actions pending and in development in U.S. federal court, in several U.S. state courts, and in other nations’ courts, and in administrative rulemaking proceedings before several U.S. state agencies. We also support youth in grassroots advocacy to secure science-based climate recovery planning at the local government level.

Federal Climate Recovery Lawsuit

Our Children’s Trust supports the twenty-one young people and Dr. James Hansen as Guardian for future generations, who are advancing a constitutional climate lawsuit against the United States government, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Kelsey Juliana & Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh M., et al. v. United States & President Barack Obama, et al., 6:15-cv-01517-TC (2015). Fossil fuel corporations, through their trade associations, have intervened as defendants in the lawsuit to oppose the youth, calling the case a “direct threat to their businesses,” and setting up a massive “David v. Goliath” contest. Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call this case “the most important lawsuit on the planet.”

On November 10, 2016, the federal court issued an historic ruling in the youths’ favor. The court ruled against the government and fossil fuel industry defendants on every legal argument they put forward to dismiss the youths’ case. The court accepted the youths’ arguments and ruled that:

A. The U.S. Constitution secures a fundamental right to a climate system that is capable of sustaining life.

B. The public trust doctrine obligates the federal government to preserve essential natural resources so not to deprive future generations of resources necessary for their well being and survival.

C. The Court has the constitutional authority to order the federal government to prepare and implement a national climate recovery plan that stabilizes the climate system and protects the vital resources on which citizens now and in the future will depend.

With these legal rulings in their favor, the youth now advance to trial in 2017, with indisputable facts, and a strong likelihood that they will secure that court order and dramatically shift our nation’s fossil fuel policies for the benefit of all of our children and future generations.

State Legal Actions

OCT also supports youth actions ongoing in the state appellate courts of Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Colorado. Underlying these cases are two major state court rulings our youth secured in 2015 in New Mexico and Washington, both establishing state constitutional public trust obligations to preserve essential natural resources, including the atmosphere and air. Additionally, in April 2016, our Washington youth secured the first judicial order in our nation ever to order a state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Then, in May 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also ruled in favor of our youth plaintiffs, ordering more aggressive regulation by the state to reduce carbon emissions. On Dec. 19, 2016, Judge Hollis Hill of the Washington Superior Court in Seattle, issued another powerful climate justice decision in our youths’ climate lawsuit. Amplifying the urgency of the youths’ claims, the court found “emergent need for coordinated science based action by the state of Washington to address climate change.” Articulating that “it is time for these youth to have the opportunity to address their concerns in a court of law, concerns raised under statute and under the state and federal constitution,” the Judge on her own motion gave the youth permission to add claims against the state and its Governor to advance their case. The case will now continue toward trial “as expeditiously as possible.” We will soon file actions in other state courts and administrative agencies to further enhance these expanding legal protections for our climate system.

Global Legal Actions

Advancing coordinated legal actions against governments around the globe, OCT has actively supported climate cases in Pakistan, Uganda, the Philippines, Ukraine, Belgium, and the Urgenda case in the Netherlands. The Urgenda victory, mandating that the Dutch government set rigorous emissions standards, and has been recognized as precedent by the judge in our climate action against the U.S. OCT’s work with youth and lawyers in Uganda, the Philippines and Ukraine, has favorably advanced climate jurisprudence, and the filing of a youth climate lawsuit in Pakistan represents the power youth can have to advance climate justice despite difficult country conditions. OCT is also working with youth and lawyers in India, Norway, England, Canada, France, Australia, Nepal and Bangladesh to bring coordinated legal actions in those nations, and is developing relationships in other countries where youth are eager to advance similar claims. In fall 2016, we conducted a strategic climate litigation training in Morocco for 30 human rights lawyers from the MENA region, and presented at the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Day of Discussion, to help set international standards for climate recovery that can protect children through UN resolution.

Public Education, Media and Graphics

In partnership with the Alex C. Walker Foundation, we are nearing completion of a graphic representation of the causes, consequences and solutions to climate change that we envision being made available to any who hope to educate others about the solutions to climate change. A draft sample of those graphics are attached below. We also lead an active media campaign on the urgent subject of science-based climate recovery and the legal rights associated therewith. We have received coverage from CNN, Bill Moyers, Democracy Now, PBS News Hour, The Nation, MSNBC, Bloomberg News and many more, see https://ourchildrenstrust.org/written-media-coverage, and have co-produced short films with WITNESS that can be seen at www.ourchildrenstrust.org/trust-films.


We explore and advocate for market approaches that promote a sustainable economy and rebalance economics in relation to ecosystem services, climate change, energy security, food production, ocean acidification and other environmental matters.

Economic imbalances that favor carbon intensive products and that perpetuate environmental degradation continue to dominate our economies. We work toward legal requirements that will drive economic and governmental policy to realign those imbalances toward a sustainable economy and the stabilization of our climate system.

We seek a judicially mandated, systemic national climate recovery plan that contains market based policies including: realignment of tax incentives and subsidies away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy; establishment of a carbon fee system reflecting the true costs of carbon; allocation of R&D funding to develop the market readiness and economic viability of new and existing technologies.


The scope of our work is global. We are advancing legal actions on behalf of all present and future generations to achieve systemic government policy at the federal, state, local and global domestic levels. Our media work is similarly focused at all of these levels. Because climate change and ocean acidification are simultaneously global and local issues, governmental action and policy at all levels of government is crucial to achieve a meaningful remedy to these crises. We are driving that science-based climate recovery action and policy by securing legal rights (constitutional and public trust) that require such action and policy at the governmental level.

Information Dissemination

We disseminate the theories on which we base our work in legal actions and through public education efforts and the results of our legal work through extensive traditional press and through social media channels. As well, we partner with a wide array of NGO's, experts, government officials, faith and indigenous communities to spread the word of our work and successes. Finally, we expect to make the graphics we are preparing widely available to many for broad distribution and wide use.

Project Link www.ourchildrenstrust.org

Amounts Approved
$20,000.00 on 5/31/2016 (Check sent: 6/7/2016)
$25,000.00 on 9/18/2016 (Check sent: 9/28/2016)

Empowered Youth Plaintiffs
Thumbnail Sept. 2016 Courthouse Steps 2
OCT Sept. 2016 Courthouse Steps

P.O. Box 5181
1216 Lincoln Street
Eugene, OR 97401

(619) 316-6360


Lou Helmuth
Deputy Director, Our Children's Trust

Posted 3/25/2016 5:34 PM
Updated   2/23/2017 11:58 AM

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Empowered Youth Plaintiffs
Empowered Youth Plaintiffs

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