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Settlement negotiations fail between climate kids and government attorneys

Alec Cowan
Climate plaintiffs and their attorneys in front of the Eugene Federal Courthouse in summer 2018.

Attorneys for 21 young people suing the federal government over climate change say settlement talks with the U.S. Department of Justice have failed.

Juliana v. the United States was filed six years ago in Eugene. The 21 youth plaintiffs are represented by attorney Julia Olson with Our Children’s Trust. She said they went into the settlement negotiations in good faith.

“We gave it our best shot,” Olson said. “And maybe there will be another opportunity in the future. But for now, our eyes are on trial.”

The plaintiffs have asked U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken to allow the case to go to court. The lawsuit claims the young people have a constitutional right to a climate that sustains life. And that the government has acted to perpetuate a fossil fuel economy, ignoring and denying warnings from scientists and activists.

While world leaders meet in Scotland to grapple with the climate crisis, Olson is skeptical of the Biden Administration’s commitment to the next generation.

“And they have consistently said, in the Juliana case, there is no right to a climate system that sustains life,” said Olson. “That these children don’t have that right. And that’s the position that we’re seeing on the international scale too right now.”

Olson said there’s a disconnect between what the government is willing to do and the lofty goals it talks about.

Copyright 2021 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s former News Director. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000. After reporting for the Northwest News Network and KAZU, Rachael returned to KLCC in 2007 as Morning Edition host and a general assignment reporter covering politics, the environment, education, and the arts. She was hired as KLCC News Director in 2018. Rachael departed KLCC in June, 2022.