The Kids Are Alright: Montana Youth Lead Climate Trial Effort

A group of teens is taking on the state of Montana, claiming that the state's continued dependence on fossil fuels infringes on their constitutional rights.

1 minute read

February 10, 2022, 10:14 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Rocky Mountains

Jontmh / Shutterstock

In a historic move marking the first climate change case brought by young activists, "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."

As Lucas Thompson reports, a judge allowed the case to move to trial in spite of the state's objections. The complaint states that "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 case hinges on "environmental rights" explicitly mentioned in Montana's state constitution—one of six state constitutions to do so—which guarantee the right of Montana residents to "clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations." The lawsuit joins more than 1,000 climate change-related lawsuits around the world that are attempting to hold governments and corporations responsible for the effects of human-driven climate change, writes Thompson. The case highlights the role of young activists in the climate change debate and could set an important legal precedent for future cases.

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