Fifteen children and youths have brought suit against the Queen and Attorney General of Canada, alleging that Canada emits and contributes to emitting greenhouse gases that are incompatible with a stable climate. The plaintiffs argue that Canada's actions have violated their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedom, as well as the rights of present and future Canadian children. They seek declaratory relief and an order requiring the government to adopt a Climate Recovery Plan.
Plaintiffs are children and youth in Canada who allege that they have been and will continue to be exposed to climate change impacts that interfere with their physical and psychological well being, as well as their ability to make fundamental life choices. The plaintiffs assert that because of their vulnerability and age, they will bear a disproportionate share of the burden imposed by climate change. They claim that Canada has caused, contributed to, and allowed a level of greenhouse gas emissions that is incompatible with a stable climate system; adopted greenhouse gas emissions targets that are inconsistent with the best available science regarding what action is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change; failed to meet its own national greenhouse gas emission targets; and actively participated in and supported the development, expansion, and operation of industries and activities involving fossil fuels that emit a level of greenhouse gases that is incompatible with a stable climate.
Plaintiffs seek declarations that defendants have unjustifiably infringed their rights -- and the rights of all present and future children and youth in Canada -- under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that defendants have violated Section 7 of the Charter, which protects the rights to life, liberty and security; and Section 15 of the Charter, which provides that every individual is equal under the law. Plaintiffs also argue that Canada has a common law and constitutional obligation to protect the integrity of common natural resources that are fundamental to sustaining human life and liberties, and seek a declaration that defendants have failed to discharge their public trust obligations with respect to those resources. Finally, they seek an order requiring defendants to develop and implement an enforceable Climate Recovery Plan that is consistent with Canada's fair share of the global carbon budget necessary to achieve greenhouse gas emissions, and ask the court to retain jurisdiction to ensure the plan is implemented.
On February 7, 2020 the government filed a statement of defense acknowledging that climate change is real and has a significant effect on Canada, but arguing that the plaintiffs lack public interest standing and that their claims are not justiciable.