Schakowsky, Rush, Jayapal, Merkley Introduce Resolution Supporting Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery

September 23, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL), Chair of the Energy Subcommittee, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a co-chair of the House United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis introduced the Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution. This concurrent resolution seeks to protect the fundamental rights of the nation’s children given today’s climate crisis.

Specifically, the Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution:

  1. Recognizes that the current climate crisis disproportionately affects the health, economic opportunity, and fundamental rights of children.
  2. Demands that the United States develop a national, comprehensive, science-based, and just climate recovery plan to meet necessary emissions reduction targets.
  3. Supports the principles underpinning Juliana v. United States, the landmark constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 21 young Americans, and youth climate organization Earth Guardians, who are suing the executive branch of the federal government for creating a national energy system that causes climate change.

“We’re already seeing the devastating effects of the climate crisis, but it’s today’s children and future generations that will have to pay the bill,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “As leaders of this nation, we have a duty to protect everyone, regardless of age or background, from the existential threat of climate change. That’s why we are demanding a climate recovery plan that will put the U.S. on a path toward dramatically reducing global atmospheric carbon dioxide by the year 2100 and uphold children’s fundamental rights. We already know that there multiple economically feasible ways to reach this target that will prioritize good jobs, equity, and the rights of today’s youth to a stable climate.”

“Every child—regardless of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or their parents’ income—deserves a healthy and prosperous future. But how are they supposed to thrive if their planet is ravaged by frequent and extreme wildfires and hurricanes, and unprecedented heat waves and droughts?” said Senator Merkley. “The time is right now to take immediate and decisive steps to stand up for future generations, address the climate crisis, and tackle environmental injustice. To do anything less would be morally reprehensible.”

Civil rights experts assert that, “climate change is a racial justice issue that has, and will continue to have, particularly devastating effects on communities and people of color, especially the children.” Congressman Rush states, “The devastation of systemic racism and the COVID-19 public health pandemic have ignited a sense of outrage and consciousness for the myriad injustices that persist in our nation. Through the introduction of this resolution, we shine a bright light on yet another injustice. Vulnerable and environmental justice communities, including communities of color, low-income communities, indigenous peoples, bear the brunt of climate change and are disproportionately exposed to pollution. Blatant disregard for this fact will continue to put the children within these communities, who are especially vulnerable, at greater risk.”

The Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution highlights the principles behind the youth-led case, Juliana v. United States, by stating that a stable climate system is fundamental to a free and ordered society and is preservative of other fundamental rights. “The youth seek protection of their constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, and equal protection under the laws, which includes a climate system capable of sustaining human life,” asserts Congresswoman Jayapal. “Everyday I see catastrophic climate-related events escalating. This resolution is more important than ever because children’s rights are at stake. Today, we stand with our youth and we recognize their rights and the disproportionate impacts on children from the perils of climate change.”

“The plaintiffs deserve to have their constitutional claims heard at trial,” asserts Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit, public interest law firm behind Juliana v. United States. “The Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution sends a message that youth’s rights must be recognized and the need for a national science-based climate recovery plan is urgent as wildfires rage on, the seas continue to rise, extreme storms and floods worsen, and systemic civil injustices persist. It is now incumbent on the judicial branch to ensure that the fundamental rights of children are protected.”

“Our children need and deserve a safe, clean and livable planet, and we know key actions to help get there,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner. “This resolution reminds us of the many reasons we need to act quickly for children’s better health everywhere.”

The resolution has been endorsed by the following organizations:

350.org, Alaska Wilderness League Action, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, American Sustainable Business Council, Amnesty International, Animal Law Society at American University Washington College of Law, Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, Bread for the World, Catholic Network US, Call to Action Colorado, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Children’s Environmental Health Network, Citizens' Climate Lobby, Climate Action Families, Climate Action Youth, Climate Institute, Climate Justice Alliance, Climate XChange, Earth Guardians, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Food & Water Watch, Forest Trends, Friends of the Earth, GreenLatinos, Greenpeace, Higher Ground Initiative, Hip Hop Caucus, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Interfaith Power & Light, Labor Network for Sustainability, Lawyers for Climate Action: A Call to the Bar, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of the United States, Madhvi4EcoEthics, Moms Clean Air Force, National Children's Campaign, National Congress of American Indians, Our Children’s Trust, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Schools for Climate Action, Science and Environmental Health Network, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Young Voices for the Planet, and Zero Hour.

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