Judge rules in favour of youth climate change advocates in Montana

From Our Children’s Trust:

In a historic first, Judge Kathy Seeley in the First Judicial District Court of Montana ruled wholly in favor of the 16 youth plaintiffs in Held v. State of Montana, declaring that the state of Montana violated the youth’s constitutional rights, including their rights to equal protection, dignity, liberty, health and safety, and public trust, which are all predicated on their right to a clean and healthful environment. The court invalidated as unconstitutional and enjoined Montana laws that promoted fossil fuels and required turning a blind eye to climate change. The court ruled the youth plaintiffs had proven their standing to bring the case by showing significant injuries, the government’s substantial role in causing 

 In a 103-page decision, Judge Seeley’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order set forth critical evidentiary and legal precedent for the right of youth to a safe climate, including these highlights: 

  • “Each additional ton of GHGs [greenhouse gases] emitted into the atmosphere exacerbates impacts to the climate.” 
  • “Every additional ton of GHG emissions exacerbates Plaintiffs’ injuries and risks locking in irreversible climate injuries.” 
  • “Plaintiffs’ injuries will grow increasingly severe and irreversible without science-based actions to address climate change.” 
  • “Plaintiffs have proven that as children and youth, they are disproportionately harmed by fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts.” 
  • “The State authorizes fossil fuel activities without analyzing GHGs or climate impacts, which result in GHG emissions in Montana and abroad that have caused and continue to exacerbate anthropogenic climate change.” 
  • The order provides meaningful redress to plaintiffs’ injuries because “the amount of additional GHG emissions emitted into the climate system today and in the coming decade will impact the long-term severity of the heating and the severity of Plaintiffs’ injuries.” 
  • “The Defendants have the authority under the statutes by which they operate to protect Montana’s environment and natural resources, protect the health and safety of  Montana’s youth, and alleviate and avoid climate impacts by limiting fossil fuel activities that occur in Montana when the MEPA analysis shows that those activities are resulting in degradation or other harms which violate the Montana Constitution.” 
  • “Montana’s contributions to GHG emissions can be measured incrementally and cumulatively both in terms of immediate local effects and by mixing in the atmosphere and contributing to global climate change and an already destabilized climate system.” 
  • “Montana’s GHG contributions are not de minimis but are nationally and globally significant. Montana’s GHG emissions cause and contribute to climate change and Plaintiffs’ injuries and reduce the opportunity to alleviate Plaintiffs’ injuries.” 
  • Court finds that Earth Energy Imbalance is the most critical scientific metric in determining climate stability and includes a graphic showing that 350 ppm was the level of CO2 where the Earth was last within energy balance. Allowing consideration of climate change “would provide the clear information needed to conform their decision-making to the best science and their constitutional duties and constraints, and give them the necessary information to deny permits for fossil fuel activities when inconsistent with protecting Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.” 

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