The majority of Americans (excluding the millions of children who were unable to vote) went to the polls last November to elect a new administration and today our new Executive Branch’s political verdict on climate is in. And it is not good news.
The Biden administration has just released the United States’ Nationally Determined Contributions (“NDCs”), defining the level of damaging carbon emissions the U.S. will permit. These newly released NDCs are cloaked in “green” language, but they are actually dangerous and deceptive. Here is what they really mean:
This energy and climate policy will allow more than half of current U.S. climate pollution to continue unabated, placing us on a trajectory that will add even more heating to an already overheated planet. We are already at 1.2 degrees Celsius of global heating above preindustrial levels and experiencing catastrophic ice melt, and deadly super storms, wildfires, hurricanes, drought, and disease. And this latest policy allows heating to continue above 1.5°C, to dangerous tipping points. We need our government to eliminate the majority of emissions by 2030, not continue to allow them.
The results will be deadly.
Youth plaintiff Avery during 2020’s historic wildfires in Oregon (Photo by Athena Delene Ortmann)
We Are Already at 1.2°C. It’s Already Dangerous. We Need Lower Targets, Not Higher Targets.
Ignoring the pleas of youth, these senior politicians have chosen to allow and accept an even hotter planet than today for our children. A lot hotter. Scientists across the world, including the International Panel on Climate Change, say that going even to 1.5°C average global warming is unsafe! And every climate scientist we have ever spoken to says that allowing these higher levels of global heating are not safe for our children and will cause even more catastrophic climate disruption.
Calibrating U.S. energy and climate policy to 50-75% more heating than where we are today isn’t a step in the right direction, it is a step in the wrong direction. These NDCs do not align with what climate scientists tell us is necessary to prevent more dangerous global heating and to begin rectifying the harms already bestowed on our youth: Setting emissions standards on the path of reducing CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere to below 350 ppm, which limits global warming to 1°C. We need to reduce global warming, not increase it!
Ironically, this unsafe U.S. energy and climate policy was announced at today’s Earth Day Summit, when all eyes were on the United States and this new administration as they unveiled these unsafe statements of “commitment” to our planet. We need to see clearly through the deception and greenwashing. Our nation and our leaders can and must do better if we are to ensure our children a safe future. And Our Children’s Trust will secure that better path forward in court as we vindicate children’s constitutional rights in the face of climate danger.
Legislators Compromise and Change. Only Court Orders Enforce and Endure.
The unsafe NDCs announced by the U.S. federal government today point out once again that a constitutional energy and climate policy – supported by science and resulting in systemic change – will not be realized by elected officials in the political branches of government alone. Those executive and legislative branches of government negotiate and compromise with powerful moneyed interests at the expense of the fundamental rights of our youth.
Science Cannot Be Negotiated or Compromised.
But science and the rights of our children should never be subject to negotiation or compromise. This is why we are enforcing the constitutional right to a safe climate in the judicial branch. Only in the courts can children’s constitutional rights to their very freedom, to life, liberty and property, all of which are violated by these unsafe climate NDC’s and related government action, be protected now and into the future, regardless of the political orientation of any present or future presidential administration or legislature.
Juliana youth plaintiffs in Washington D.C., 2019 (Photo by Robin Loznak)
We Are Our Children’s Last Line of Defense.
Our Children’s Trust will continue our tireless representation of youth around the globe, and here in the U.S., until we secure constitutional, legally-binding mandates that lead governments to enact safe energy and climate policies based on science, rather than committing to dangerous political compromises like the new U.S. NDCs.
Juliana v. U.S. will either proceed to trial in the U.S. District Court, or to the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral argument will be scheduled in June before Judge Aiken. We continue to prepare for the Supreme Court. Stay tuned for more details!
State and global domestic courts are considering our youth clients’ claims in Alaska, Washington, Montana, and Florida, as well as in Canada, Mexico, India, Uganda, and Pakistan.
We are also developing new legal actions on behalf of youth impacted by the climate crisis in several new state and global jurisdictions.
Now is the Time to Protect Our Children.
For eleven years, with your support, Our Children’s Trust has overcome unprecedented governmental obfuscation in our cases. As the world’s only law firm championing the legal rights of our children to a safe climate, we have trailblazed consequential victories on behalf of children that have established new bedrock constitutional climate jurisprudence.
And now, with our government setting completely unsafe NDCs that allow more dangerous heating, we are at a critical confluence.
Our planet is rapidly heating, our climate system is increasingly destabilized, and our government is abdicating its responsibility to protect its children. Simultaneously, climate litigation like Juliana v. United States is taking big steps forward in our judicial system, and will soon come to trial or advance again to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thanks to the immense generosity of so many of you, our attorneys have sustained our representation of youth in multiple constitutional climate cases – and secured the supporting testimony of globally recognized expert witnesses in climate science, public and mental health, economics, energy systems, and more – all at no cost to our young clients or their families.
To help us continue this constitutional pursuit, we need your support. Thank you.