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Legal Actions Against U.S., States Claim Climate Change Is A Breach Of Public Trust

  By Dianne Saxe, Attorney

Attorneys representing groups of one or more children and young adults are filing legal actions against the US government, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia, in which they allege that the public trust doctrine requires government entities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and implement reforestation programs in order to fight climate change.  The plaintiffs are a coalition of groups concerned about climate change called Our Children's Trust. Plaintiffs filed suit against various federal agencies and directors of agencies in the U.S. District Court for Northern California and filed ten other cases in state courts on May 4, 2011.  In the complaint against the federal agencies, the plaintiffs seek broad injunctive relief, including a six-percent annual reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions.  Other state defendants received either notice letters or petitions for agency rulemaking.

Legal actions of this kind rarely win, but even the losses can have important impacts. And sometimes the courts are willing to do what politicians are afraid to. Click here for a sample federal district court complaint and a California state court Climate Suit.

Reprinted with permission from the Environmental Law and Litigation Blog.

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