Responding to a court ruling in favor of a group of young activists who accused officials in the US state of Montana of violating their rights under the state constitution to a clean and healthful environment by supporting pro-fossil fuel policies, Marta Schaaf, Amnesty International’s Director of Climate, Economic and Social Justice, and Corporate Accountability Programme, said:
“This is a historic ruling demonstrating the vital importance of youth activism in pushing for the change we need to avert a growing climate catastrophe and will help drive forward climate justice.
“The plaintiffs were represented by the visionary non-profit law firm, Our Children’s Trust, and the ruling is an important victory in efforts to save the planet from the devastating effects of the climate emergency caused by the use of fossil fuels. It demonstrates once again that the climate crisis is a human rights crisis and that everyone has a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Human rights are inextricably linked with climate and ecological stability.
“This is a historic ruling demonstrating the vital importance of youth activism in pushing for the change we need to avert a growing climate catastrophe and will help drive forward climate justice.”Marta Schaaf, Amnesty International’s Director of Climate, Economic and Social Justice, and Corporate Accountability Programme
“It sends a strong signal to authorities everywhere that they bear a legal obligation to ensure this and other human rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled or that they could face similar legal challenges.”
“To ensure that the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming are reduced, authorities must ensure a full, fast and fair phasing out of fossil fuel production and use, and place moratoriums on the development of new fossil fuel resources.”
Sixteen plaintiffs, aged five to 22, had alleged Montana’s government’s pro-fossil fuel policies contributed to climate change and therefore breached their right under the state’s constitution to a ‘clean and healthful environment’. The non-profit law firm, Our Children’s Trust, brought this case on behalf of the plaintiffs.
It came after legislators in Montana had outlawed consideration of the climate crisis in decisions regarding coal mining and other projects.
The court found that this prohibition violated the rights of the plaintiffs, who experienced serious harm to their mental and physical health due to climate change and air pollution.
Judge Kathy Seeley also ruled that a law which prohibited government agencies from considering climate impacts when deciding whether or not to permit large energy projects meant Montana is contributing to the climate crisis.
The judge’s 103-page ruling said: “Plaintiffs have proven that as children and youth, they are disproportionately harmed by fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts.”
In Australia, our right to a healthy environment isn’t protected in law. We need a human rights act that protects our right to a healthy environment so we can challenge the use of fossil fuels like these young people in Montana.