A judge has issued an order to invalidate pro-fossil fuel laws in the U.S. state of Montana, asserting that they undermine the fundamental right of young individuals to a healthy environment.
In response to the judgment, Montana's government criticized the outcome as "absurd" and indicated their intention to appeal.
The Montana case is part of a larger, nationwide movement led by the non-profit legal organization, Our Children’s Trust. This collective effort aims to legally challenge pro-fossil fuel laws at both the federal and state levels, seeking to establish that governments hold a legal obligation to consider the detrimental impacts of climate change on young generations.
Of note, the Montana case marked the first instance to progress to trial in the United States.
The Montana case stands out for several reasons. Firstly, Montana is a significant coal exporter, and emissions from its six coal mines contribute to a yearly CO2 output exceeding that of entire nations like Brazil, Japan, and the UK.
Secondly, the state has a law explicitly prohibiting government agencies from factoring emissions effects into policy decisions.
Thirdly, the state's constitution grants its citizens the right to "a clean and healthful environment."
Expert witnesses testified in court that climate change was inflicting harm upon young people and that Montana's role in contributing to this phenomenon was substantial.
In favor of the youths, the judge ruled that Montana must cease using its pro-fossil fuel laws. Notably, the judgment did not, however, compel the government to introduce new anti-fossil fuel legislation, as requested by the young plaintiffs.
Kian, one of the young participants in the case, celebrated the outcome as "truly historic," stating in a released statement, "We are heard! The overwhelming elation and joy in my heart are truly remarkable."
Despite this victory, the state government will likely appeal the decision. In an official statement, the spokesperson for the state's Attorney-General dismissed the court proceedings as a "weeklong taxpayer-funded publicity stunt that was supposed to be a trial" and accused the judge of acting in a politically motivated manner.