A group of juvenile activists in Washington state are the latest youths to bring their concerns over climate change inaction to the courts.
In Seattle on Tuesday, eight petitioners between the ages of 12 and 16 asked a judge to find Washington state in contempt for failing to fulfill court orders from April and last November to protect the constitutional rights of young people and future generations from climate pollution.
They’re awaiting a decision from King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill, who said she needed more time to make a decision, The Associated Press reported. But Our Children’s Trust, the Oregon-based nonprofit behind the lawsuit and similar efforts nationwide, is hopeful on the case’s outlook.
“Judge Hill didn’t rule from the bench, but this hearing definitely went good,” the group wrote in a Facebook update Tuesday.
The plaintiffs want the court to intervene and force the state’s Department of Ecology to require more drastic emissions reductions. The Clean Air Rule the department released, the youth group argues, only requires 19 companies in the state to reduce emissions by 1.7 percent ― a “grossly inadequate” amount for addressing climate change that doesn’t fulfill the previous court orders.
In court, the AP reported, the state’s lawyers argued that the previous court did not make any specific requirements for the Clean Air Rule. The policy the state adopted, the department told The Huffington Post, is one of the country’s most pioneering.
“We agree, taking action on climate change is imperative and a priority for the Department of Ecology,” the department’s climate policy and communications manager Camille St. Onge said. “We have acted in good faith and adopted one of the nation’s most progressive regulations to reduce carbon pollution. It will take local governments and state agencies working together to make the deep carbon reductions needed to do our part to help slow climate change.
Lawsuits like these, the plaintiffs argued, are crucial given the poor outlook for climate change policy under a Donald Trump presidency.
“It’s a pretty grim time for people in this country who breathe air and drink water,” petitioner Aji Piper, 16, said outside the courthouse before the hearing. “Our president-elect is somebody who blatantly denies climate change and it’s a fact that makes the future of the children, my future, look pretty bleak.”
Piper is a plaintiff in both the Washington case and a case out of Oregon against the Obama administration also supported by Our Children’s Trust. The latter was brought by 21 activists ages 9 to 20 and alleges that the federal government violated their rights by allowing climate-polluting activities. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Eugene, Oregon, decided to allow the case to proceed.
Our Children’s Trust Executive Director Julia Olson told Climate Central that Trump’s administration will probably be substituted in as defendants if the case is not decided by the end of Obama’s term.
“This could be ― both of these cases ― the last chance we have to establish ... a path back to climate stability and safety for my generation and all generations to come,” Piper said.
This story has been updated to include comment from St. Onge.