Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken denied the request of 18 Republican attorneys general to intervene as defendants in the Juliana case. Judge Aiken indicated that when her ruling comes down on the plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend, the states could attempt to refile their motion, suggesting a ruling in Juliana v. United States – where a favorable decision would put the youth back on the path to trial – may be imminent! After we notify our amazing 21 youth plaintiffs, you will be the first to know. Stay tuned…
The Juliana case was also featured prominently in a HUGE decision issued by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court on Monday that reaffirmed the precedent first established by Judge Aiken in Juliana v. United States that there is a constitutional right to a “life-sustaining climate system.”
In their decision, “In re: Hawai‘i Electric Light Co.,” a unanimous Hawai‘i Supreme Court affirmed that:
- Climate change is an existential emergency and that “a stepwise approach is no longer an option”;
- The constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment encompasses the right to a safe climate; and
- Courts can issue remedies for constitutional violations in the climate context.
In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice M. Wilson cited Juliana v. United States, as well as a recent law review article co-written by Our Children’s Trust Senior Litigation Attorney Andrea Rodgers, writing that “the right to a life-sustaining climate system is also included in the due process right to ‘life, liberty, [and] property’” and that “current scientific consensus, as opposed to political consensus in the Paris Agreement regarding an acceptable increase in global average temperature, suggests that mitigation strategies must be consistent with achieving global atmospheric CO2 concentrations below 350 parts per million (‘ppm’) by 2100.”
What Do These Decisions Mean?
Yesterday’s decision from Judge Aiken signals that a ruling on the Juliana youth plaintiffs’ motion to amend their case – which would permit them to move forward to trial – is likely coming very soon. Again, stay tuned!
The ruling in the Hawai‘i Supreme Court recognizes the pioneering Atmospheric Trust Litigation developed by Our Children’s Trust. This is a watershed moment in climate litigation in the United States and across the globe. It has the power to impact our federal and state cases from Juliana v. United States to Navahine v. Hawai‘i Department of Transportation. All of the groundwork we have been laying in our advocacy for this kind of judicial precedent is coming to fruition.
Justice Wilson recognized, “climate change is a human rights issue at its core” and “the lives of our children and future generations are at stake.” Judicial decisions like this one demonstrate that courts can and will act to protect children’s fundamental rights using the best available climate science: what scientists tell us is safe, not what politicians arbitrarily choose through negotiation and compromise.
The only path forward to climate justice is for our courts to step in and fulfill their responsibility, deciding cases based on admissible evidence introduced using principles of human rights and the best available climate science. With your support, we will keep working to lay the legal groundwork for courts to weigh in with more human rights judgments like this, against fossil fuel pollution, that protect our children.
Stay tuned for a ruling from Judge Aiken on the Juliana youth’s motion to amend their case. When a decision is announced, and if it is in favor of the youth plaintiffs, we will need your help to urge Attorney General Merrick Garland to abandon the legacy of the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice – one that has used extreme legal tactics to delay, deny, and oppose the youths’ right to have their evidence heard by a judge – and end their opposition to the case proceeding to trial.