In Montana, young men file the first historic lawsuit related to climate change

There is Rikki Held, 22, Grace Gibson-Snyder, 19, and the other fourteen: Lander and Badge B., Sariel S., Kian T., Georgianna F., Eva L., Mika K., Olivia V. ., Jeffrey and Nathaniel K., Claire V., Ruby and Lilian D., and Taleah H… Ages 5 to 22, these sixteen young Montana residents filed a lawsuit against this upstate state on March 13 2020. -Western United States, believing that their right to a healthy environment had been violated. Since the beginning of the week, the case, dubbed ” Held vs. State of Montana it became the first climate change lawsuit in US history.

Despite the delaying maneuvers initiated by the state, the hearings opened on Monday 12 June before the court of justice in the capital Helena. They are expected to last until June 23, before a decision is made on a yet-to-be-defined date.

Rights protected by the Montana Constitution

Indeed, the appellants argue that the “The Dangerous Effects of Fossil Fuels and the Climate Crisis” it harmed them, being the children “particularly vulnerable” to these effects that are only getting worse. They argue that by supporting a fossil fuel-based energy system that contributes to the climate crisis, Montana is violating their constitutionally protected rights since 1972.

Indeed, theMontana Basic Law Article II, Section 3 specifies that “All people are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthy environment. . . . »While Article IX, Section 1 state it “The State and every person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthy environment in the State of Montana for present and future generations”. Beyond Montana, five other states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) mention environmental rights in their constitution.

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Two plaintiffs, Rikki Held and Grace Gibson-Snyder, said their lifestyles were directly affected by the fires. The first spoke of a fire that cut power lines and cut power to the family ranch for a month, killing livestock because his family couldn’t pump water. The second cited a soccer game in his senior year of high school, in 2021, that was canceled after twenty minutes due to smoke from the fires.

The sixteen young people are not asking for any compensation, but they are demanding that a statement be drawn up in which it is assumed that their rights have been violated. This must be a first step towards action by elected officials of the state.

Montana’s carbon footprint in question

In his opening remarks, attorney Roger Sullivan discussed the effects of global warming on Montana’s youth. “Heat, drought, forest fires, air pollution, severe storms, disappearance of local wildlife, melting glaciers, loss of family and cultural pillars and traditions”, he listed, also referring to the medical and psychological damage. Additionally, the attorney argued that the state had conducted a disastrous energy policy, releasing 166 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year in the atmosphere, the equivalent of a country like Argentina, while Montana has just over a million inhabitants.

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Climatologist Steve Running, called to testify by the prosecution, presented scientific evidence on Monday of man’s responsibility for global warming. Montana, for example, is experiencing shorter winters that lengthen fire season, he noted.

Montana Attorney General Michael Russell said the court will hear during the trial “guess” Ref “what the future may hold, including sweeping, bombastic statements about a tragic fate that awaits us all”. In his opinion, the rule underlying the procedural procedure cannot be the cause of the damages of which the plaintiffs claim to be victims. ” Shows [de CO2] of Montana are just too small to make a difference”said Mr. Russell, judging that climate change has been a “global problem”in which the state played a role of “mere spectator”.

The work of Our Children’s Trust

The beginnings of the Held case vs. State of Montana date back to 2011when the American Environmental Association The trust of our children asked the Montana Supreme Court to rule on the state’s obligation to address climate change. The Supreme Court refused to intervene, thus explaining to the association that it had to appeal to the courts of first instance. NGO lawyers built a case, identified potential plaintiffs, cataloged the effects of climate change on the state, documented state support for the fossil fuel industry, and more.

The NGO is also behind the case, which has sued local state governments on behalf of young people in all 50 US states Juliana vs. United States. In 2015, twenty-one young Americans filed a lawsuit against the federal government for lack of protection against climate change without going to trial, the case is still pending.

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Regarding the Held case vs. state of Montana, Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School explained in March to New York Times that he “There has been virtually no trial on climate change.” “It is the first that will address the effects of climate change and the measures to be taken, as well as how the state could be prompted to change its practices. »

The world with AFP