Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Friday's ruling is "the first time [that] a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it." (Photo: Joe Brusky/flickr/cc)

"These Kids Can't Wait": New Win in Youth Climate Lawsuit in Washington

Judge orders state Department of Ecology to create new rules to cap emissions by end of 2016

Nadia Prupis

The young activists suing the U.S. government over its role in climate change scored another victory in court on Friday, as a judge in Seattle ordered the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) to announce an emissions reduction rule by the end of the year and make recommendations to reach those targets to the state legislature in 2017.

King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill also ordered the department to consult with the young plaintiffs on crafting those recommendations.

"This is an urgent situation," Hill said in issuing the order. "These kids can't wait."

The DOE in February withdrew its proposal to cap emissions, following a landmark ruling in November 2015 which found that the state's current standards fail to "preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations."

Friday's ruling is "the first time [that] a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it," said Andrea Rodgers, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who represents the young plaintiffs. The DOE "is now court-ordered to issue a rule that fulfills its constitutional and public trust duty to ensure Washington does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet."

The case in Washington is one of several similar legal battles underway in the U.S., all supported by the environmental advocacy group Our Children's Trust, as youth activists take U.S. agencies to court to demand action over climate change. An Oregon judge ruled earlier this month that a complaint filed by more than a dozen young plaintiffs against the federal government—referred to by advocates as "the most important lawsuit on the planet right now"—can go to trial.

"It was absurd for [the DOE] to withdraw its proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions," petitioner Aji Piper, 15, who is taking part in both the state and federal lawsuits, said in a statement on Friday. "Especially after Judge Hill declared last fall that our 'very survival depends upon the will of [our] elders to act now…to stem the tide of global warming.'"

Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children's Trust, added, "This case explains why youth around this country, and in several other countries, are forced to bring their governments to court to secure a healthy atmosphere and stable climate. Despite clear scientific evidence and judicial recognition of the urgency of the climate crisis, Washington and most governments across the U.S. and other countries are failing to take correspondingly urgent, science-based action."

"That failure unfairly consigns youth to a disproportionately bleak future against which they can only reasonably ask the courts to step in to address this most sensitive issue of our time," Olson said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Family of Officer Who Died After Jan. 6 Won't Shake Hands With McConnell, McCarthy

"No one should shake hands with insurrectionist sympathizers," said Voto Latino.

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Says He Has Enough Support to Pass Yemen War Powers Resolution

"By removing the possibility of more U.S. support for Riyadh and its partners to renew airstrikes in Yemen, Congress can play a constructive role to keep the pressure on the Saudis to negotiate an extension of the truce," said two advocates for the resolution.

Julia Conley ·


On Election Day, Warnock Supporters Urge Georgians 'Don't Walk, Run to the Polls!'

"The stakes could not be higher," said Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Alexis McGill Johnson, who campaigned for the Democratic senator. "Freedom is on the ballot."

Jessica Corbett ·


Biden Administration Takes 'Urgent and Necessary' Step to Protect 100,000+ Haitians From Deportation

"This decision will save lives and is the type of compassionate response this moment demands," said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who led a call from Democrats in Congress to allow Haitians living in the United States to remain during the country's "unprecedented crisis."

Brett Wilkins ·


Revealing New Evidence in Abu Akleh's Killing, Al Jazeera Sues Israeli Forces at ICC

The news network said the journalist's killing was part of a "wider attack on Al Jazeera, and journalists in Palestine."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo