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Juliana v. United States

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20025
Nos. 18-36082, (9th Cir., 01/17/2020)

The Ninth Circuit reversed a district court ruling that a group of youths had standing to sue the U.S. government for allegedly failing to act on climate change and violating their right to a safe climate. The youths argued that the government violated their constitutional rights under the Fifth and Ninth Amendments by continuing to permit, authorize, and subsidize the use of fossil fuels despite knowing the risks, and sought to compel the government to develop a plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. The district court concluded that the group had standing to sue, raised justiciable questions, and stated a viable claim for infringement of a Fifth Amendment due process right to a "climate system capable of sustaining human life." On appeal, the government argued the group lacked standing to pursue its constitutional claims. The court held, 2-1, that the group sufficiently alleged concrete and particularized injuries and that those injuries were caused by carbon emissions from fossil fuel production, extraction, and transportation, but that the injuries could not be redressed by the court because development of an effective remedial plan necessarily requires complex policy decisions that are entrusted to the executive and legislative branches, not the judiciary. It therefore "reluctantly" concluded that the group's case must be made to the political branches or the electorate at large, and remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss for lack of standing.