Fifteen young Canadians are suing the federal government over climate change. It’s not the first climate change litigation. Here are five other cases:
1. An environmental group in Quebec sought to launch a class action against the federal government in November 2018 for what it said was a failure to combat climate change. Lawyers sought to argue that Quebecers who are 35 and under are being deprived of a right to a healthy environment and will suffer the effects of global warming more than older generations.
Superior Court Justice Gary Morrison said in July that the cause of environmental protection was of undoubted importance. But he said in a ruling that members of the class would have to be 18 or older and excluding those over 35 appeared to be a “purely subjective and arbitrary choice” by the organization.
“Although the mission and objectives of (the group) are admirable on the socio-political level, they are too subjective and limiting in their nature to form the basis of an appropriate group for the purpose of exercising collective action,” Morrison wrote. The group “can be the ‘voice’ of young people,” he added, “but it does not have the authority to change the legal status and powers of minors.”
2. Youth represented by Our Children’s Trust filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against the United States government in 2015.
The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., and it wants a judge to declare that the U.S. government is violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by substantially causing or contributing to a dangerous concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
It asks the court to declare federal energy policy that contributes to global warming unconstitutional, order the government to quickly phase out carbon dioxide emissions to a certain level by 2100, and mandate a national climate recovery plan.
The young people argue that government officials have known for more than 50 years that carbon pollution from fossil fuels was causing climate change and that policies promoting oil and gas deprive them of those rights.
Lawyers for President Donald Trump’s administration have argued that the lawsuit is trying to direct federal environmental and energy policies through the courts instead of through the political process.
3. In the Netherlands, an appeals court last year upheld a landmark ruling that ordered the Dutch government to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.
The original June 2015 ruling came in a case brought by the environmental group Urgenda on behalf of 900 Dutch citizens.
The Hague Appeals Court said the government is under a legal obligation to take measures to protect its citizens against dangerous climate change. “Considering the great dangers that are likely to occur, more ambitious measures have to be taken in the short term to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect the life and family life of citizens in the Netherlands,” the court said in a statement.
4. Colombia’s highest court told the government is has to take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest against deforestation in 2018.
An environmental group that supported a group of 25 children and youth in the lawsuit says they successfully argued that deforestation and the increase of the average temperature in the country threatened their rights to a healthy environment, life, health, food and water.
The youth also argued that future generations will be the ones to suffer the worst climate change effects.
The organization says the court ordered the government to create an “intergenerational pact for the life of the Colombian Amazon” to reduce deforestation and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. It also recognized the Colombian Amazon as “an entity subject of rights.”
5. The City of Victoria explored the idea of launching a class-action lawsuit with other municipalities against energy companies this year.
The city is among more than a dozen B.C. municipalities that sent letters to oil and gas companies asking them to chip in to cover growing bills associated with climate change in proportion to their emissions.
Storm surges combined with a one-metre rise in sea level, which is projected by 2100, could result in business disruption losses of almost $500,000 per day, according to a 2015 report commissioned by the regional government.
Meanwhile, delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted against a proposed motion from Port Moody calling the province to pass legislation holding energy companies financially liable for costs related to climate change at their annual meeting in September.