NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The dismissal of a lawsuit filed by young people claiming government climate policy falls short will be appealed and marks a minor setback in pursuing legal action on behalf of youth and their rights, experts said.
The legal complaint arguing that the state of Washington must do more to cut carbon emissions was dismissed on Tuesday by a judge who said it was a matter for politicians, not courts.
The judge’s ruling marked the first time a court has dismissed a case filed by youth demanding authorities ramp up efforts to curb climate change by arguing their constitutional rights to due process are being violated, experts said.
A half-dozen similar cases have been filed in states including Florida and Alaska, said Our Children’s Trust, a youth advocacy group that provides legal assistance.
The Washington complaint, filed in February, asked that a statewide target to emit 50 percent fewer greenhouse gasses by 2050 be invalidated in favor of more ambitious goals, court documents said.
The dismissal will be appealed, lawyer Andrea Rodgers of Our Children’s Trust told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Scientific consensus holds that the emission of greenhouse gasses from the burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of global warming.
Washington Superior Court Judge Michael Scott wrote in his dismissal that he hoped the activists “will not be discouraged,” but Rodgers said they were “devastated” and wanted to “present their constitutional claims in a court of law.”
Several of the cases by young people base their arguments on their rights to fair treatment and due process under the U.S. Constitution.
The remaining cases could still be effective in forcing authorities to strengthen climate change regulations, said Katherine Trisolini, a professor of environmental law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“I wouldn’t give up on the courts yet,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Climate activists are particularly optimistic about a federal case, Juliana v. United States, brought by 21 young activists who say officials violated their rights by failing to address carbon pollution adequately.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid by President Donald Trump’s administration to halt the lawsuit, filed in 2015.
Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org