President Joe Biden recently traveled to the West to showcase his environmental accomplishments, which include designating a new national monument at the Grand Canyon and highlighting legislative achievements like the Inflation Reduction Act. However, while Biden emphasizes his climate policies, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is engaged in a legal battle opposing a significant youth climate lawsuit, known as Juliana v. United States, from proceeding to trial.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2015 by a group of 21 young people, aged 15 to 27, who argue that the federal government’s continued use of fossil fuels violates their constitutional rights. Although an appeals court dismissed the case in 2021, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that an amended version of the case could proceed to trial, potentially making it the first federal trial for a constitutional climate case.
However, the Biden DOJ is advocating for the case to return to an appeals court instead. Their argument is based on the previous ruling that the youth plaintiffs lack legal standing and that the case should not proceed to trial. They claim that there is no federal public trust doctrine guaranteeing a stable climate system and that the government cannot be held responsible for damage to the Earth’s atmosphere.
Critics argue that the Biden administration’s actions do not align with his climate rhetoric, as the government continues to support fossil fuel energy. Despite Biden’s emphasis on clean energy initiatives, the DOJ’s opposition to the case reflects a similar stance to that of the Trump and Obama administrations.
Legal experts note that even if the case goes to trial, the youth plaintiffs may face challenges ahead. The current conservative US Supreme Court’s track record on climate and environmental issues suggests that the Court might intervene in the case before the trial begins.
While the Biden administration has shown a commitment to addressing climate change, it faces criticism for not taking the Juliana case more seriously. With the potential threat of a warming planet to the future of young people, many argue that the administration should align its actions with its climate rhetoric.