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Youth climate change lawsuit now targets state, Gov. Inslee

Eight Washington youths have sued the state's Department of Ecology, and now have included the state itself and Gov. Jay Inslee in the case over climate change. (AP)

A climate change lawsuit spearheaded by a group of Washington state youth is now moving forward with court approval, adding the State of Washington and Gov. Jay Inslee as defendants.

“This case is important because it transformed from a small case against a single Washington state agency into a large case against the entire Washington state government,” said 16-year-old Aji Piper.

Related: Washington youth are not backing down from climate change lawsuit

Piper is among eight petitioners in Washington between the ages of 12 and 16 who have sued the Department of Ecology for failing to protect their future from climate change.

“It’s important because they are violating our rights to a livable climate and now they have a chance to remedy that,” Piper said.

The climate change lawsuit is part of a national effort — in different states — waged by youth, and aided by Our Children’s Trust. The youths are essentially pursuing cases to force the government to more strictly address the looming threat of climate change.

Climate change lawsuit now includes state, Inslee

As of Tuesday, Washington’s climate change lawsuit now includes “a constitutional climate rights claim that adds the State of Washington and Gov. Jay Inslee as defendants,” Our Children’s Trust reports. The trust states that the court favored the youth’s recent request “due to the emergent need for coordinated science-based action by the State of Washington to address climate change before efforts to do so are too costly and too late.”

“Courts are increasingly recognizing the urgent need for science-based climate action by governments and putting on trial the lack of political will to address the crisis that most threatens our children,” said Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust.

“Significantly, our co-equal third branch of government is stepping in to protect the constitutional rights of young people before it is too late to act,” she said.

In November, King County Judge Hollis Hill denied the youth’s petition to find the state’s Department of Ecology in contempt for not doing enough to address climate change — essentially complying with previous court orders to protect constitutional rights of young people and future generations. On Tuesday, however, the judge made a decision that will move the youth’s case forward.

According to Our Children’s Trust:

(The court) grants the youth’s request to add claims that the State of Washington and Gov. Inslee violated the Washington state constitution and the public trust doctrine so the youths will ‘have their day in court.’ The ruling now paves the way for the youth to prove ‘their government has failed and continues to fail to protect them from global warming,’ and get the full remedy they seek against the state and Gov. Inslee.

It’s a step forward for the youths, but they still have many more to go in order to prove their case.

Judge Hill’s court order states:

It is time for these youth to have the opportunity to address their concerns in a court of law, concerns raised under statute and under the state and federal constitution.

“All these kids want is the opportunity to present the science to the court because the government leaders of today have failed to implement climate policies that scientists and experts say are needed to protect the rights of young people and future generations,” said Andrea Rodgers with the Western Environmental Law Center.

Rodgers represents the youths in Washington’s climate change lawsuit.

“The climate crisis is not easy to solve, but Washington cannot continue to take actions and pursue policies that lock in dangerous levels of carbon dioxide emissions,” Rodgers said.

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