- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
Our Children’s Trust is the only 501(c)(3) non-profit public interest law firm in the world providing science-based legal services exclusively to children to secure their legal rights to a safe climate.
Our legal work – grounded in constitutional, public trust, and human rights laws, as well as in the laws of nature – aims to stop government actions that contribute to the worsening of the climate crisis, as these actions also violate innumerable rights that depend fundamentally on a habitable planet (rights to life, liberty, property, personal security, religious freedom, etc.).
We work to protect Earth’s climate for present and future generations by representing and supporting young people in global legal efforts to secure legally binding judicial declarations that will return atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to below 350 parts per million (ppm) by the year 2100: the scientific prescription for a safe climate.
To achieve science-based constitutional climate declarations in U.S. federal courts, individual states and in other nations, Our Children’s Trust supports youth climate actions against multiple national and state governments seeking declarations of those governments’ unconstitutional worsening of the climate crisis. With partners around the globe, OCT leads coordinated lawsuits now advancing in the U.S. federal courts, the state courts of Montana, Virginia, Hawai’i and Utah, and in national courts in Canada, Mexico, India, Uganda and Pakistan.
“THE MOST IMPORTANT LAWSUIT ON THE PLANET”
We represent 21 young Americans and renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen (as Guardian for future generations) in Juliana v. U.S., the ground-breaking constitutional climate lawsuit against the U.S. government.
Lead 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft said of this case: “Of all the cases working their way through the federal court system, none in more interesting, or potentially more life changing than Juliana v. U.S.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm3EAPlT89I
Historic Constitutional Climate Ruling in Children’s Favor: In 2016, the U.S. District Court issued a ground-breaking decision in favor of the young Juliana plaintiffs on the government’s Motion to Dismiss their case, ruling for the first time in history that the U.S. Constitution secures the fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining life.
24 preeminent international and Nobel prize winning experts will testify in support of the children’s case at trial: Indisputable evidence from these experts will demonstrate that for more than 60 years the U.S. Government has known that CO2 pollution from fossil fuels causes global warming and destabilizes the climate system. The evidence will also prove that despite this knowledge, the U.S. government actively promoted fossil fuel production for decades and failed to implement its own plans to reduce CO2 pollution to levels it knew to be safe: 350 ppm. As a result, atmospheric CO2 increased dramatically, creating the grave climate emergency we face today. This evidence positions the youth to secure the constitutional declarations they seek that the U.S. governments’ perpetuation of a fossil-fuel based energy system violates children’s constitutional rights and must be brought into science-based constitutional compliance.
Trump and Biden Administration Shadow Docket Strategies Delay Trial with U.S. Government Filing More Mandamus Petitions in This Case Than In Any Other Case in History: Since the historic 2016 decision of the U.S. District Court determining that Juliana v. U.S. should advance to trial, the Trump administration filed an unprecedented 6 Petitions for Writ of Mandamus (petitions arguing such extreme error by the U.S. District Court that the appellate courts should reverse the court’s decision before any evidence is heard at trial). We know of no other case ever in U.S. history in which 6 petitions for writ of mandamus were filed! Not surprisingly, the youth won all 6 of those petitions in the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, but they are still fighting government opposition to their case coming to trial in open court.
However, it is important to note that we know of no cases ever that have been as vigorously defended against by government and industry as ours. It has been observed in the Harvard Law Review that Juliana v. U.S. is perhaps the most egregious example of the "shadow docket" tactic to prevent cases from ever coming to trial, and Eric Grant, the Federal Government’s top appellate lawyer for Energy and Environmental Litigation under the Trump administration said at a Federalist Society sponsored talk on December 6, 2022 that: “My number one priority from day one was to kill Juliana v. U.S.” This unprecedented government defense against our efforts can only be evidence of the power of our strategy. But still to this day, the Biden administration continues to oppose this case ever coming to trial. But we are overcoming their efforts.
Next Steps: Despite 7 years of delay tactics by the government defendants, the 21 young Juliana plaintiffs have requested that the U.S. District Court set their case again for trial, and they are very optimistic the court will grant their Motion to Amend, finally demonstrating the facts of the U.S. Government’s knowing complicity in worsening the climate crisis in open court. It appears Judge Aiken is preparing to issue her long-awaited decision on our Motion to Amend in Juliana v. U.S. On March 14, 2023, Judge Aiken ruled against a Motion to Intervene filed by 18 Republican Attorneys General seeking to exert their influence and resources against us in Juliana v. U.S.. That is certainly good news in and of itself, and it is Judge Aiken’s first ruling in the case since our June 25, 2021 argument on our Motion to Amend. Thus, Judge Aiken’s one line “docket order” on March 14 denying those 18 states’ request to intervene in Juliana, indicates she may be close to her ruling on our Motion to Amend.
THE FIRST CONSTITUTIONAL CLIMATE TRIAL EVER IN THE U.S. & SCIENCE-BASED LEGAL ACTIONS AGAINST OTHER NATIONAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS
Our Montana lawsuit, Held v. State of Montana, on behalf of 16 young Montanans, will be the FIRST constitutional climate lawsuit EVER to come to trial in the U.S. It is scheduled for a ten-day trial beginning on June 12, 2023. The Guardian and Reuters both single out Held v. Montana as one of the most important environmental cases of 2023. A former Montana Supreme Court Justice penned a beautiful Op Ed, highlighting how little time we have to get this climate solution right.
In 2022, we kept Held v. State of Montana on the track to trial despite government defendants' arduous efforts to thwart the case. We defeated three different attempts by the state to have the case dismissed, including an important win for us before the Montana Supreme Court in June, 2022, when the state sought to have the case wrought from the trial court. The Montana Supreme Court found the state's effort to be "disingenuous at best."
As well during 2022, in Held v. State of Montana, we:
1. Completed 36 depositions - this includes 12 plaintiff depositions; 14 depositions of plaintiffs' experts; 3 depositions of defendants' experts; and 7 depositions of employees at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Public Service Commission
2. Poured over 50,000 pages of scientific reports and other evidence to support the case, including important information provide by the youth plaintiffs
3. Filed 19 expert reports (10 affirmative reports and 9 rebuttal reports responding to the state's experts) - these experts are the best in their respective fields, two of whom have won Nobel Prizes for cutting edge work on climate science; all of whom are providing their services on a pro bono basis.
4. Secured national and international media coverage of the case and the youths' personal stories and climate injuries. The forthcoming trial in the case has been highlighted by national and international media as a milestone in environmental litigation for 2023.
Our other state cases in Utah, Hawaii, and Virginia are proceeding through Motions to Dismiss akin to those already won in Juliana v. U.S. and in Held v. State of Montana. The Utah Supreme Court recently ruled that it will hear our appeal of the trial court’s dismissal of our case, rather than sending the appeal to the Utah Court of Appeals, as was its prerogative. We are pleased to have the case decided directly by the Utah Supreme Court, indicating the court’s belief that the case is especially important, and avoiding another interstitial step at the Utah Court of Appeals. We are awaiting a ruling in Hawaii whether the tentative three week trial scheduled to begin on September 26, 2023 will go forward, and we are briefing our Virginia appeal before the Virginia Court of Appeals.
OCT also developed and is currently co-litigating the Canadian climate case La Rose v. His Majesty the King as well as ongoing cases in Mexico (Jóvenes v. Gobierno de México), India (Pandey v. India), and Uganda (Mbabazi and Others v. Attorney General and National Environmental Management Authority). These cases all seek systemic judicial declarations of governments' science-based constitutional obligations to mitigate the climate crisis. In all of the active youth-led constitutional climate cases we support now in Mexico, Canada, India, Uganda, Pakistan and in the United States, we redirect the focus of the world’s courts from unsafe politically-negotiated climate goals to safe science-based climate mandates.
However, our work also includes advocacy for science-based climate rights before international tribunals and bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, and the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. Also, as you know, we have advised legal teams bringing human rights-based climate litigation in countries including Australia, Belgium, Columbia, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines Portugal, Sweden, and Ukraine. We also publish our research. Our most recent article is "The Injustice of 1.5¬-2.0°C, "published in the Virginia Environmental Law Journal, and the reports and testimony of the experts that testify on behalf of the youth are public record in all of our cases.
We are now also providing evidence to Europe’s preeminent human rights court. In the summer of 2022, the European Court of Human Rights elevated its first-ever climate cases to its highest chamber—the Grand Chamber—and gave Our Children’s Trust permission to provide the best available scientific evidence in all three of these historic cases: KlimaSeniorinnen v. Switzerland, Carême v. France, and Agostinho v. Portugal and 32 Others. Together with our partners, Oxfam, the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, and the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, we provided the Court with analysis of the best available climate science and how the science is interwoven with the law and protection of human rights. The intervention squarely presents scientific evidence of the metric necessary to stabilize the climate, and the grave injustices of accepting the Paris 1.5-2.0°C goal as protective of human rights. The Court will hear two of the cases on 29 March 2023. The importance of Court’s findings cannot be overstated. As one of the world’s highest courts, its legal and scientific findings will have profound consequences for all of humanity, especially children.
We also work with partners around the world to publish science-based children’s rights scholarship and train lawyers on climate science and rights-based litigation. Those partners include the Center for Child Law and the University of Pretoria, Center for Climate Repair at Cambridge, Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, Climate Law Network, Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste, Greenwatch Uganda, the Human Rights Center at the University of California Berkeley, Open Global Rights at New York University School of Law, Oxfam, and Students for Climate Solutions, New Zealand.
We are exploring and advocating for market approaches and other policies that will promote a sustainable economy and economic balance relating to ecosystem services, climate change, energy security, transportation, food production and other environmental issues.
Economic imbalances that favor carbon intensive goods and services and perpetuate environmental degradation continue to dominate our economy. Our work will lead to court orders that require governments to realign those imbalances toward a sustainable economy, in accordance with scientific prescriptions to stabilize our climate system and de-acidify our oceans. We advocate for legal mandates that will drive a wide variety of potential market-based and related policy solutions including subsidy re-alignment, fiscal and tax policy, energy, transportation, agriculture, environmental and infrastructure regulation.
The scope of our project is global and influences policy making on national and state levels in multiple nations and regions. Our project focuses on human rights as they are denigrated by unconstitutional government actions that worsen the climate crisis. These affirmative, unconstitutional government actions we seek to limit touch all sectors of our economy, from energy to agriculture to forestry to oceans to infrastructure to transportation and beyond, and thereby dramatically impact our national economy and the global free-market system. Our project encourages the opening of new and sustainable economic opportunity in each of these sectors, that are proven to be to our macroeconomic and global public health benefit.
Primarily, our results will be disseminated in the form of constitutional judicial orders declaring current government policies that worsen the climate crisis to be unconstitutional and the resulting policy shifts to comport with the science-based constitutional mandates determined by the courts.
However, in tandem with our constitutional climate legal campaign on behalf of children, we also implement related media and education efforts to inform the public about constitutional climate rights, the scientific prescription for climate recovery, and the legal solutions to the climate emergency. We partner with literally hundreds of groups who officially support and amplify our work before the courts, in the media and to their constituents. We coordinate youth plaintiff testimony before Congress, we earn literally hundreds of media reports that include high-profile mainstream and legal media outlets, Reuters, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The New Yorker, and many others. Additionally, we distribute a free 5-lesson high school curriculum for teachers around the U.S. to bring Juliana v. U.S. to their students at the very moment the climate emergency intensifies around those students. Further, an important feature-length documentary about Juliana v. U.S., “Youth v. Gov,” is out on Netflix, and a Pulitzer Prize nominated book also about Juliana v. U.S., “They Knew,” by Gus Speth (former Chair of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council), was released last year. This far reaching, multi-channel media and education effort is critical to achieving the science-based climate mitigation sought in all of our work.
Project Link www.ourchildrenstrust.org
(Check sent: 7/19/2022)