- The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court this week ruled in favor of four youth plaintiffs, backed by advocacy group Our Children’s Trust, that the state was not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will need to make deeper cuts.
- The youth advocacy group, along with Conservation Law Foundation and the Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, argued that Massachusetts was not on track to reduce emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, as required by a state law passed in 2008.
- Our Children's Trust also has litigation pending in other courts, including the federal district court in Oregon, and in the state courts of Pennsylvania, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. Inside Climate News called the court's decision OCT's "most impressive victory to date."
Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit which helps youths bring legal action in support of environmental protections, scored a major victory this week in Massachusetts. Only action by the state's legislature could reverse the decision, according to Inside Climate News.
“This is an historic victory for young generations advocating for changes to be made by government. The global climate change crisis is a threat to the well being of humanity, and to my generation, that has been ignored for too long,” Shamus Miller, a 17 year-old plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the scope and urgency of that threat and acknowledges the need for immediate action to help slow the progression of climate change."
The case dates to 2012, when the group petitioned the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act and adopt rules reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions. The petition was denied, leading to the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit.
The group says Massachusetts is not on track to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25% below 1990 levels, which it argues "is directly related to DEP’s failure to issue the required regulations."
“In agreeing with the youth plaintiffs in this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court joins growing global judicial recognition of youth’s rights to demand that their governments act in accordance with the urgency of the climate change crisis,” said Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children’s Trust.
A previous court had ruled the state was in compliance with the emissions reduction law when it issued three regulations, including one which directed participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The court's ruling this week, however, concludes those regulations did not go far enough in their reductions.
Beyond simply participating in RGGI, the court ruled that the Global Warming Solutions Act "requires the department to promulgate regulations that establish volumetric limits on multiple greenhouse gas emissions sources, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents, and that such limits must decline on an annual basis."