Lawsuits against governments for not protecting citizens from carbon emissions

Young people from all the US states are plaintiffs in a class action suit against their state governments for failing to protect the atmosphere under Public Trust Doctrine.[i] Cases were pending in Oregon, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington and Montana. At the federal level, five teenagers and Kids vs. Global Warming and WildEarth Guardians partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit. Their petition to be heard by the Supreme Court was denied in 2014. The Public Trust Doctrine is derived from English Common Law that the government is a trustee of public resources. Seven teenagers and the iMatter Youth Council sued the US government in 2011 to require the government to reduce carbon emission by 6% each year, cap emissions at 2011 levels, and do reforestation.[ii] A Dutch environmental organization called Urgenda sued the government in 2015 to protect citizens against the country’s carbon emissions, such as from coal plants, followed by similar lawsuits in Belgium and other countries that are watching the pioneering cases carefully.


Mary Christina Wood. Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age. Cambridge University Press, 2013.


“Youth Leadership: Generation Green,”


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