On August 14th, Montana made history when it ruled in favor of the youth plaintiffs in Held v. Montana, a court case about the state violating the plaintiff's right to a “clean and healthful environment”. This case was made by 16 Montanans from the age of 5 to 22.
The plaintiffs’ main argument was that the changes that came with greenhouse emissions took a toll on their mental and physical well-being, while also impacting indigenous culture, tradition, and land. Montana, however, argued that their emissions were insignificant, despite being the third-largest fossil field producer in the nation.
Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in favor of the young plaintiffs, stating that the policy of requesting the usage of fossil fuel emissions is unconstitutional since it doesn’t consider greenhouse gas emissions. The outcome of the case was that Montana would not have to take Climate Change, as an issue, into consideration when passing laws. This case marks a significant change in history, being the first climate constitutional case that is youth-led.
“Every additional ton of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions exacerbates plaintiffs’ injuries and risks locking in irreversible climate injuries,” Seeley wrote.
While the case is not in federal court, but rather in state court, it is still a significant step forward in the legal battle against climate change. Moreover, Montana might be the first of its kind, but several other cases are making their way through court in Virginia, Utah, and Hawaii. As the battle continues, there is no doubt that huge shifts in climate policy are yet to come.