Today, Victoria Barrett will send more than 62,000 petition signatures in support of her climate lawsuit to the White House. Victoria is one of 21 young people suing President Obama, and several federal agencies, for the government’s actions that have caused carbon pollution, climate destabilization, and violations of their constitutional rights. On January 20, Donald Trump and his administration will become defendants in the case.
"I’m asking the President to leave a legacy of truth."
—Victoria Barrett, 17
Before Trump’s climate denying administration takes office, Victoria, and her co-plaintiffs are urging President Obama to stand with them and to protect their futures. Victoria Barrett, youth plaintiff, Earth Guardian RYSE member and Action Fellow with Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) said:
“We’ve urged President Obama and his administration to settle our lawsuit, but our calls for settlement have gone unanswered. President Obama was the first person in power to tell me, at the young age of 9 years old, that I have the ability to create change. He told me that it's okay to have hope. In his remaining 10 days in office, I’m asking the President to leave a legacy of truth before Donald Trump and his administration push their climate denialism rhetoric and actively work to harm my future. The federal government’s answer to our complaint is due this Friday, January 13 – my hope is that they will admit the truth, and not deny science or their collusion with the fossil fuel industry. My generation’s livelihood is on the line and we won’t give that up – we will find justice. As President Obama said, ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.’ The President was right, I cannot wait for some other time and I cannot wait for some other person. We want President Obama to be on our side, on the right side of history.”
Through their Care2 petition, youth plaintiffs urged Obama to reject fossil fuel interests and come to the settlement table in their lawsuit. They invited him to end the case – to meet with them, implement a climate recovery plan, and define his legacy.
On November 10, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken completely rejected the government and fossil fuel industry defendant’s arguments to throw their case out. Plaintiffs are now headed to trial in what may be a turning point in United States history.
Plaintiffs are now focused on preparation for their trial. On December 28, attorneys representing the plaintiffs sought to obtain testimony from Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobile and President-elect Trump’s candidate for Secretary of State. The Notice was served on Sidley Austin, the law firm representing three intervenor-defendants in the lawsuit: American Petroleum Institute (API), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). Tillerson is scheduled to be deposed by plaintiffs’ attorneys on January 19, one day before Trump’s inauguration. In his deposition, Tillerson will be asked questions about his knowledge relevant to the youths’ claims that their constitutional rights have been violated. Plaintiffs seek to prove these trade associations have known about the dangers of climate change since the 1960s and have successfully worked to prevent the government from taking the necessary steps to fully address climate change.
The youth’s federal case is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children’s Trust, seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.