I didn’t travel anywhere for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, yet I am counting my blessings because, together with other petitioners under age 18, I was back in King County Superior Court Tuesday at a contempt hearing against the Washington State Department of Ecology. This was our fourth and maybe final chance make Ecology act to protect our constitutional rights by limiting State carbon emissions in line with current and best climate science.
One thing we can’t give thanks for is the ever-worsening climate crisis, and that’s why we need our governments to step up and act to save our future. Even though our Department of Ecology has both the responsibility and the authority to act, the agency’s own reports admit that current standards—a decade old—are inadequate. For example, they don’t even address transportation pollution, which accounts for nearly half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It has been over two years since we young people first asked Ecology to act on its own rhetoric and do its job by setting standards that fulfill our share to cut global emissions by the 8-10% per year that get us back to safe levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead they put out a Clean Air rule that asks a couple dozen big polluters to cut annual emissions by just 1.7%—this doesn’t even comply with the old standards and many of these polluters won’t even have to start making cuts for years.
Thankfully, we are able to demand that they do more. I am grateful for our amazing attorney from the Western Environmental Law Center, Our Children’s Trust, and for our judge who set an amazing precedent, ruling that based on public trust doctrine in the State Constitution, we all have the right to a healthful and pleasant environment, including a stable climate. Ecology must use its existing authority to regulate CO2 emissions to “preserve, protect and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations.”
By taking weak and ineffectual action, I’d say Washington State is content to be contemptuous of all our rights. They need to do more to save our future. Ecology needs to make a real plan and commit to carry it out. Up to now, we youth have certainly been learning how politics works, as the Governor talks about how the State is stepping up on climate change with this ‘business as usual’ Clean Air Rule. We’re certainly learning how big business works, as they threaten and file lawsuits for being asked to cut next to nothing.
That’s why we headed back to court with the hope that our state will finally become a leader and take meaningful steps that get us all to a livable future. The judge will make her decision soon. I’m thankful that she is helping figure out how to protect our future. She understands that this is not a situation that can be put off a few more decades or even a few more years. This year was the hottest on record. The Artic ice is rapidly melting as never before. It is time to step beyond politics as usual and business as usual to safeguard future generations.
We children, your children, will have to live in the world adults create for us now. Just as we give thanks that we can act today on behalf of children everywhere, we want to be thankful that you took action too. Call Governor Inslee and ask him to do more to cut carbon pollution, and ask him this simple question: How do you want to be remembered?