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). 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, and despite a pending Trump administration request for a writ of mandamus from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn those rulings (despite two judges in the U.S. District Court having already denied the Trump administration’s requests for interlocutory appeal), the youth are preparing for trial which has been set by the U.S. District Court to begin on February 5, 2018. With nearly indisputable facts, there is a strong likelihood that these youth advocates will secure the court order they seek to 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 related youth climate actions against state governments now pending in the state courts of Oregon, Washington and Colorado, and before several state administrative agencies. Underlying these actions are rulings in several other state cases, also brought by youth with the support of OCT, that have developed a critical body of state constitutional and public trust climate jurisprudence. In 2015, youth secured rulings in New Mexico and Washington, both establishing state constitutional public trust obligations to preserve essential natural resources, including the atmosphere and air. In 2016, the Washington youth secured the first judicial ruling in our nation ever to specifically order a state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously in favor of our youth plaintiffs, ordering more aggressive state regulation to reduce carbon emissions there. In 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled in favor of our youth, finding that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission can no longer prioritize commercial interests of oil and gas development over public health and safety. The CO Attorney General is seeking an appeal of that case to the Colorado Supreme Court, despite the Governor’s request that she not. New actions will be filed soon in additional state courts and administrative agencies.

Global Legal Actions

Advancing coordinated legal actions against governments around the globe, OCT has actively supported related climate cases in India, Pakistan, Uganda, the Philippines, Ukraine, Norway, and the Urgenda case in the Netherlands. OCT’s work with youth and lawyers in Uganda, the Philippines, the Netherlands and Ukraine favorably advanced crucial climate jurisprudence in those nations, and the filing of youth climate lawsuits in India and Pakistan represents the power youth can have to advance climate justice despite difficult country conditions. OCT is also working with youth and lawyers in England, Canada, Germany, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and multiple other nations to bring coordinated legal actions on behalf of youth who are eager to advance similar climate recovery claims.

Public Education, Media and Graphics

In partnership with the Alex C. Walker Foundation, we have completed a graphic representation of the causes and consequences of, and solutions to, climate change, and the federal lawsuit referenced above. These graphics are available to any who hope to educate others about the solutions to climate change: schools, NGOs, civic organizations, individuals. The graphics are attached hereto. 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 will make the above described graphics widely available to many for broad distribution and wide use. We are beginning distribution through our organizing efforts surrounding the upcoming Federal trial, and expect the graphics to be widely used in schools this academic year.

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)

  Related Organizations
Our Children's Trust  

Empowered Youth Plaintiffs
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OCT Sept. 2016 Courthouse Steps
Pathways to Climate Recovery . Our Children's Trust.10.2.17.pdf (PDF)

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

(619) 316-6360


Elizabeth Dickinson
Chief Development Officer, Our Children's Trust

Posted 3/25/2016 5:34 PM
Updated   10/2/2017 3:42 PM

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Empowered Youth Plaintiffs
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