For the first time in U.S. history, a youth-led climate change lawsuit will go to trial.
In Held v. State of Montana, 16 youth plaintiffs have sued the state over its energy policy, alleging that its heavy dependence on fossil fuel development accelerates climate change and infringes on their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The trial will start Feb. 6, 2023, according to documents obtained by NBC News.
The complaint was filed in March 2020. In August 2021, a judge denied the state’s move to dismiss it, allowing it to move to trial — the first lawsuit of its kind in the United States.
“Children are uniquely vulnerable to the consequences of the climate crisis, which harms Youth Plaintiffs’ physical and psychological health and safety, interferes with family and cultural foundations and integrity, and causes economic deprivations,” the complaint states.
Montana is one of six states that mention environmental rights in its state constitution. Article IX, added in 1972, reads: “The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.”
Globally, lawsuits around climate change are becoming more frequent. A database kept by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School now includes case documents for more than 1,000 climate change lawsuits from around the world.
A federal judge in Australia ruled last May that the government had a “duty of care” for young people when making decisions involving climate change. But the group of teenage climate change activists lost its fight against the expansion of a coal mine.
NBC News, 8 February 2022