In a lawsuit called Held v. State of Montana, sixteen plaintiffs aged from 5 to 22 alleged that state officials violated their constitutional right to a healthy environment by enacting pro-fossil fuel policies. They won their case.
"As fires rage in the West, fueled by fossil fuel pollution, today's ruling in Montana is a game-changer that marks a turning point in this generation's efforts to save the planet," said one attorney representing the young plaintiffs.
Montana's constitution guarantees a “clean and healthful environment.” Judge Kathy Seeley declared Montana’s fossil fuel-promoting laws to be unconstitutional.
Youth-led constitutional climate lawsuits, brought by Our Children’s Trust, are pending in other states.
Several US states and some 150 other countries have a right to a healthy environment explicitly stated in their constitutions. Hopefully, the Montana ruling may inspire similar lawsuits around the world.
Elsewhere, the European Court of Human Rights will hear cases against France and Switzerland over alleged failings to protect the environment.
Lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry are also pending.