Over the past several months, WITNESS has been encouraged by a number of landmark decisions, in the US and across the world, made in an effort to stem the tide of climate change. Many of the legislative actions taken echo or are directly correlate to WITNESS’ work with Our Children’s Trust, a domestic, youth-driven campaign in which thousands of young people across the US took legal action in their respective States, demanding their right to clean atmosphere.

Our Children’s Trust’s most recent success was in New Mexico where last month the State’s Court of Appeals issued a ruling recognizing the climate as a resource protected by a constitutional public trust doctrine. New Mexico will now join the growing list of states that are recognizing the government has a legal obligation to preserve the climate for future generations. This is a massive victory and we are thrilled that the success of the Our Children’s Trust campaign continues today.

A similar victory comes out of The Netherlands where an unprecedented decision was issued requiring the Dutch government to take more effective action to combat climate change. The civil case, brought to court by the organization Urgenda which represented over 900 co-plaintiffs from around the country, has resulted in a ruling that will force the Dutch government to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by at least 25% before the year 2020. Because the Dutch government had already agreed to a 17% reduction policy, this decision will be the first time that a national government has been ordered to amend current climate conservation efforts by its judiciary branch.

Similar to the strategy used by Our Children’s Trust in the US, Urgenda developed their case around the concept of a public trust doctrine. An entity protected under public trust is considered to be belonging to the public and therefore, must be protected by the government. According to the court ruling, a clean climate is guaranteed to the Dutch people by the public trust doctrine of The Netherlands and therefore, the government must take serious action to preserve it.

Xiuhtezcatl Roske Martinez_Trust

Finally, in preparation for the upcoming United Nation Climate Conference in France, Sam Kutesa, president of the U.N. General assembly, hosted a high-profile meeting on climate change last month.

This event offered an opportunity for two well-recognized and accomplished climate activists to speak in front of delegates from all 193 countries of the general assembly. The first was acclaimed actor and conservationist Robert Redford.

The second was a close friend of WITNESS’, 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Roske Martinez, a youth activist from Boulder Colorado who was featured in a campaign video we co-produced with of Our Children’s Trust. During his speech, Xiuhtezcatl made a note of addressing the extreme dangers we face as a species if the international community continues to avoid adopting aggressive policy combating climate change : “What’s at stake right now is the existence of my generation.” You can see Xiuhtezcatl’s story, and the stories of other youth taking legal action against the governmental for a cleaner climate, by visiting Our Children’s Trust here.

This has clearly been a thrilling few weeks for climate change activists across the globe and WITNESS is proud to be a member of the fight for a cleaner atmosphere. These successes have already drawn the attention of the New York Times and other popular news outlets, and will hopefully build momentum for the cause as we quickly approach the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in December.


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