Eugene Youth Taking Legal Stand Against Climate Change Inaction

By Sophie Peters

Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak

For the past few years, youth across the United States have worked to sue the government for not providing action plans for climate change. The Oregon nonprofit Our Children’s Trust has helped minors from all 50 states file actions against climate change inaction by the government.

In Dec. 2013, young people who are a part of the Youth Climate Action Now Campaign from Eugene delivered a suggested Climate Recovery Ordinance to Eugene’s City Council.

The Climate Recovery Ordinance states that the government has “a duty under the Public Trust Doctrine to young people and future generations to protect the atmosphere and take science-based action on climate change.”

A City Council work session followed by public testimonies took place in Eugene on May 27. They passed a motion 7-1 to have staff write up a Climate Recovery Ordinance to be presented on a July 21 public hearing.

The ordinance states that Eugene would work to have “climate neutral internal operations by 2020, reduce community-wide fossil fuel use by 50% by 2030,” as well as establish “a city-wide science-based goal for emission reductions consistent with the target of reducing global atmospheric CO2 levels to 350 ppm by 2100.”

If Eugene approves the ordinance, it would become a leader in the country for climate action.

On a larger scale, five teenagers and two nonprofits partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit for the federal government to create a plan for climate recovery in the United States to put into action. The teenagers asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to recognize their legal right to a healthy living environment, and the court is going to decide on the case based on a written briefing by the teens, rather than the oral account that the teens wanted to give and the Public Trust Doctrine.

“There is no timeline for which the judges need to decide the cases. We are hopeful decisions will come out this summer,” said Meg Ward, the communications and outreach coordinator at Our Children’s Trust, to CatlinSpeak.

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About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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