Climate and the Law

Julia Olson, Founder of Our Children’s Trust, Is Setting the Legal Bar High

…“It’s about our children and their future. It’s about all these future generations.”
… Her realization about the generations-spanning effects of climate destruction led her to create a nonprofit law firm, Our Children’s Trust, in 2010. Her new firm’s strategy was based on a simple premise: Since children can’t vote, they have no say in the makeup of the legislative and executive branches of government. But they do have rights as citizens, and the courts have an obligation to uphold those rights—including the rights to life and liberty, both of which, Olson is convinced, are violated by climate change impacts.

Youth activists win ‘unprecedented’ climate settlement in Hawaii

June 21, 2024 – the Guardian

State’s transport department given a 2045 deadline to fully decarbonize and achieve zero emissions under agreement. Hawaii officials have announced a “groundbreaking” legal settlement with a group of young climate activists, which they said will force the state’s department of transportation to move more aggressively towards a zero-emission transportation system.

European court rules human rights violated by climate inaction

April 9, 2024 – By Georgina Rannard, BBC climate reporter

A group of older Swiss women have won the first ever climate case victory in the European Court of Human Rights.

The women, mostly in their 70s, said that their age and gender made them particularly vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves linked to climate change. The court said Switzerland’s efforts to meet its emission reduction targets had been woefully inadequate. It is the first time the powerful court has ruled on global warming.

Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg joined activists celebrating at the court in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Oil firms forced to consider full climate effects of new drilling, following landmark Norwegian court ruling

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Jan 31, 2024 –

This ruling, which compels energy firms to account for the industry’s entire carbon footprint, could change the way oil and gas licenses are awarded in Norway—and inspire similar legal challenges to fossil fuel production in other countries.

The district court judge Lena Skjold Rafoss ruled that three petroleum production licenses, held by energy companies including Equinor and Aker BP, were invalid largely due to the lack of consideration that had been given to so-called “downstream emissions.” That is, emissions from burning the petroleum that these firms would extract from the North Sea (also called scope 3 emissions).

The Kids Are Alright!

ONTARIO YOUTH CLIMATE LAWSUIT GOES TO COURT Monday, Jan. 15 and Tuesday, Jan. 16  

Meet the youth here. #GenClimateAction 

Follow their story so far

U.S. Judge Sends Landmark Youth Climate Case to Trial

Jan 1, 2024 –  Mitchell Beer – the Energy Mix

A landmark youth climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, is finally going to trial, after a December 29 ruling by District Court Judge Aiken that rejects the U.S. government’s latest bid to have the case dismissed.

“This catastrophe is the great emergency of our time and compels urgent action,” Aiken wrote [pdf] in her 49-page judgement. “As this lawsuit demonstrates, young people—too young to vote and effect change through the political process—are exercising the institutional procedure available to plead with their government to change course.”

Learn about other Global Legal Actions – Our Children’s Trust (

False Advertising Complaint Challenges Enbridge’s Claim of ‘Cheap’ Natural Gas

September 11, 2023 –  The Energy Mix staff

With gas network expansions in Ontario costing the average consumer $10,000 more than a high-efficiency electric heat pump over the lifetime of the equipment, “Enbridge’s dishonest marketing is duping people into signing up for its gas service,” Environmental Defence Canada Program Director Keith Brooks said in a release.

“Heat pumps have come a long way in recent years,” he added. “They are now the most affordable way to heat a home, and are far superior from an environmental perspective. Enbridge needs to stop lying to people and pushing its fossil gas agenda on communities.” – more

Young people to take 32 European countries to court over climate policies

Photograph: Pablo Blázquez Domínguez/Getty Images

The group say they were driven to act by their experiences in the wildfires that hit the Leiria region of Portugal in 2017. 

Sept 14, 2023 – the Guardian

Six young people are preparing to appear at the European court of human rights to try to compel 32 nations to rapidly escalate their emissions reductions in the world’s largest climate legal action to date.
Read the guardian article

This Is Huge’: Judge Sides With Montana Youths in Historic Climate Ruling

“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 16 young plaintiffs.

Aug 14, 2023 – JULIA CONLEY – Common Dreams

Climate advocates on Monday expressed hope that an unprecedented ruling by a state judge in Montana, siding with 16 young residents who argued the state violated their constitutional rights by promoting fossil fuel extraction, will mark a sea change in the outcomes of climate lawsuits.

Sign of the Times: Oregon County Sues Fossil Fuel Entities and Enablers for Contributing to Deadly 2021 Heatwave

Map showing extreme heat wave in Portland Oregon. Credit: European Space Agency (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Major fossil fuel entities and trade associations including Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Western States Petroleum Association, as well as consulting behemoth McKinsey & Company, were recently slapped with the latest climate liability lawsuit in the Oregon Circuit Court in Multnomah County, Oregon.

The northwestern Oregon county is the state’s most populous and includes the city of Portland. In this new lawsuit, it seeks to hold fossil fuel companies and their “misinformation agents” accountable for the unprecedented 2021 heat dome that saw temperatures in the county reach 116º Fahrenheit and is linked to the deaths of 69 people. From DeSmog. Read story

Young Climate Activists Take Montana to Court for Its Role in Global Warming

June 12, 2023 – By Associated Press

Youth plaintiffs say warming temperatures are harming their health and threatening their futures as a closely-watched climate trial kicks in Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Rikki Held decided to join other young plaintiffs in a lawsuit to force Montana officials to do something about climate change after watching wildfires blacken the sky over her family’s ranch, drought stress the cattle and violent floods erode the banks of a nearby river.
They are trying to persuade state District Judge Kathy Seeley over a two-week trial that the state’s allegiance to fossil fuel development endangers their health and livelihoods and threatens future generations. More

Groundbreaking youth-led climate trial comes to an end in Montana

June 20, 2023 – the Guardian
A groundbreaking climate trial came to an early close on Tuesday as lawyers on each side presented a very different picture of who can be held responsible for the climate crisis. More

Held v. State of Montana – Youth v. Gov — Youth v. Gov (

Links to the whole story, including lots of photos, videos, daily updates

Fossil Investors Beware: Here Come the Lawyers

Now that science is naming names and calling polluters to account, how much longer can banks and pension funds hold fossil companies close?

May 27, 2023 – Mitchell Beer – the Energy Mix

…But when the history of this time is written—when we look back at how we managed the series of wins that finally got climate change under control—the ability to pinpoint the polluter responsible for a specific measure of climate harm will surely stand as a milestone.

10 First Nations sue Ontario and Canada over resource extraction and broken Treaty 9 promises

April 26, 2023 – the Narwhal

Arguing that resource extraction has violated Indigenous jurisdiction for over a century, the case could stall the Ontario government’s plans to mine the Ring of Fire.

The nations are asking a court to find that a long list of federal and provincial laws related to resource extraction are not valid on their territories — and to bar Canadian governments from making any further decisions about how land there could be used without Indigenous consent. – more

Update: Judge Dismisses Youth Court Challenge, Scorches Ontario Climate Plan

Youth climate applicants in Mathur v. Ontario. Image by Emily Chan/Ecojustice.

April 19, 2023 – the Energy Mix

Applicants in a landmark youth-led climate lawsuit against the Doug Ford government are vowing to appeal their loss this week, buoyed by the judge’s rebuke of Ontario’s emissions targets and its cynical bid to skirt litigation by declaring its own climate plan to have no status in law.

Ecojustice lawyer Danielle Gallant compared Queen’s Park inadequate efforts on climate change to “bringing a glass of water to put out a house on fire

From The Energy Mix. Read article.

Environmental groups taking provincial government to court over attack on Hamilton’s official plan

 Jan 9, 2022 – Ecojustice, on behalf of Environmental Defence, has served the Ontario government with a notice of application for a judicial review of its unilaterally imposed changes to Hamilton’s official plan.
Read the Ecojustice media release – here
Listen to the CBC, Metro Morning interview with Phil Pothen – here

Written Submission to Standing Committee on
Bill 23 – More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022

November 15, 2022 -Canadian Environmental Law Association

CELA has submitted written comments to the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy regarding Bill 23 – More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022

To download the submission click here.

For Our Kids Toronto team members Mika Gang, Brianne Whyte and Laura Thomas present the seven youth with a card of gratitude and support at a rally last Sunday. The card was signed by 170 parents from across Canada. Photo by Chris Kemp

The youth lawsuit against the Ontario government’s climate plan wrapped up Wednesday, September 21 after three days of submissions. Now we wait for the judgement.

Here’s a Mom’s viewpoint from Bryanne Whyte of For Our Kids, one of several intervenor groups which had status at the court hearing. From the National Observer. Read the article.
#GenClimateAction: Story Update

A #GenClimateAction Invitation from Ecojustice

From Danielle Gallant: a lawyer for Ecojustice:


“The run-up to September always has me craving fresh notebooks and pens. There’s just something so hopeful about the start of a new school year.  

But this September will look a little different for our clients Sophia, Zoe, Shaelyn, Shelby, Alex, Madison, and Beze.

That’s because they’ve taken the Ontario government to court over its weakened climate target. Their case, Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario, has not been without its twists and turns so I’m glad to say that the hearing is finally taking place in Toronto on September 12–14. 

Let’s Sue Big Oil – This project is convened by West Coast Environmental Law.


For decades, oil and gas corporations have known that burning fossil fuels would cause the heat waves, wildfires, drought and flooding that we’re now experiencing in BC.

These multinational companies spent millions to deceive, deny and distract us on their way to billions in profit by preventing action on climate change.

July 20, 2022

VANCOUVER/Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories – The Sue Big Oil campaign applauds the City of Vancouver’s historic vote this afternoon [6-5] to allocate funds towards a future class action lawsuit by local governments against global oil and gas companies for climate costs. 

Find out more visit Let’s Sue Big Oil

Youth Climate Case Moves to Top Tribunal in European Court

July 3, 2022 – the Energy Mix

The European Court of Human Rights said Thursday that a complaint against 33 countries filed by six young Portuguese climate activists will be examined by the tribunal’s top panel of judges, a move reflecting the case’s legal significance.

The activists, three of whom are under 18, turned to the court almost two years ago in an effort to hold European governments accountable for their allegedly inadequate efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, 

Ontario’s emissions don’t have ‘decisive impact’ on Canada’s climate goals,
province argues in youth legal fight

May 11, 2022 – National Observer – Morgan Sharp

The Doug Ford government’s latest response to a lawsuit arguing its climate policy is unconstitutional includes testimony from an academic who doubts basic climate science and an economist who argues Ontario’s emissions “do not have a decisive impact” on whether Canada meets its climate goals.

Affidavits from York University physics professor William van Wijngaarden and Philip Cross, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, were filed with an Ontario court Friday. The documents mark the latest round of activity in a case the Progressive Conservatives have sought to delay and dismiss for more than half their term in office.

The Essential Advocate, Philippe Sands Makes the Case for a New International Crime Called Ecocide

December 22, 2021 – By Katie Surma – Inside Climate News

… Since Glasgow, analysts have warned that the world is now on a pathway to a dangerous 2.4 degrees Celsius of warming, manifesting itself in weather extremes, biodiversity collapse, acidification of oceans and soil erosion—all affecting the health and wellbeing of humans and other species.  

Drowning nations disappointed with outcome of U.N. climate summit may have one move left: Lawsuits

Nov 15, 2021 – Anthony Faiola – Washington Post

The islands in the Funafuti atoll

The cluster of island nations — many of them low lying, with rising tides already licking further into shore — may be the biggest losers of the Glasgow summit. 

Indigenous Women in Peru Seek to Turn the Tables on Big Oil, Asserting ‘Rights of Nature’ to Fight Epic Spills

Nov 5, 2021 – Katie Surma – Inside Climate News

Aerial scenes from the Northern Amazon from the town of Iqitos to the Amazon oil town of Trompederos, Peru, June 11, 2007. Credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Aerial scenes from the Northern Amazon from the town of Iqitos to the Amazon oil town of Trompederos, Peru, June 11, 2007. Credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

In Peru’s northern Amazon rainforest, across a million acres known as Lot 1AB, a parade of foreign oil companies have for over 50 years drilled, spilled crude and dumped billions of gallons of toxic “production water” on the once pristine land.

Germany must tighten climate law to protect young people’s future, court rules

April 29, 2021 – Reuters – Thomas Escritt

Germany must update its climate law by the end of next year to set out how it will bring carbon emissions down to almost zero by 2050, its top court ruled on Thursday, siding with a young woman who argued rising sea levels would engulf her family farm.

Youth-led climate lawsuit wins ‘historic legal victory’

Newmarket Today by Orillia Matters staff – March 27, 2021

A court has dismissed Ontario’s attempt to overturn a key decision in a youth-led climate lawsuit, solidifying a historic legal victory and paving the way for seven young people to have their day in court. more here

Yours To Protect – For Immediate Release: March 04, 2021

Statement from Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature and Ecojustice on Bill 257 regarding legislation to exempt MZOs from planning laws and policy

New law would allow environmentally destructive projects to go forward even if they contravene basic planning rules. Full statement here

How youth-led climate litigation is making Canadian legal history

Seven young people are taking the Ford government to court because its watered down climate action plan will lead to widespread illness and death, violating Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. As young people, the applicants say they and people like them will bear the costs of climate inaction more than previous generations.

On April 15, 2020, the government filed a motion to strike the case, arguing it should not proceed to a full hearing. The youth applicants countered this motion in July, arguing that they deserved their day in Court.

This led to a historic win. For the first time in Canadian history, a court recognized that climate change has the potential to violate Charter rights and gave the youth the greenlight to move ahead to a full hearing.

Meet two of the youth and find out why they are doing this – webinar here

Fighting to uphold federal authority to lead unified, national action on the climate emergency

The science unequivocally asserts that climate threats will accelerate in the decades to come. This means young people are especially at risk and will be the ones to bear the costs of the climate emergency, including widespread illness and death, more than previous generations.

In order to ensure provinces across the country do their fair share to tackle the climate emergency, the federal government introduced Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act — a backstop aimed at provinces that fail to implement a comparable emissions reduction strategy of their own.

Courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario upheld the constitutionality of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.  Meanwhile, Alberta’s court delivered a split (4-1) outlier decision that sided with the province.

Ecojustice lawyers will represent the David Suzuki Foundation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation as interveners before the Supreme Court of Canada hearings on this matter.


Our Children's Trust

Fifteen youth plaintiffs, ages 10 to 19 years old, filed the lawsuit against their federal government in the Federal Court of Canada, alleging that the Canadian government causes, contributes to and allows dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and is thus responsible for the specific, individualized climate change impacts they are experiencing. Find out more – here


In 2015, 21 youth, and organizational plaintiff Earth Guardians, filed their constitutional climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, against the U.S. government. Their complaint asserts that, through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources. Find out more – here