Children Advocating for their Future in the Face of Climate Change

  • October 23, 2023
  • Laura Pettigrew

It is often said that, “children are our future.” However, the progressive deleterious effects of climate change raise serious questions about what future today’s children and the children of tomorrow will inherit given the declining state of the environment. In the face of this increasing crisis, in an impressive feat of self-advocacy, children and youth around the world have been mobilizing to litigate for the security and safety of our planet for themselves and future generations. Consistent with an increasing global trend, Canadian children and youth have launched several court proceedings in recent years aimed at inciting government action to control greenhouse gas emissions and limit the intergenerational effects of climate change.

To date, youth-inspired litigation relating to climate change has not been particularly successful in Canada. For instance, in  La Rose v. Canada, decided on October 27, 2020, a Federal court judge dismissed an action brought by 15 children and youth. They had alleged in part that Canada had violated their rights under sections 7 and 15 of the Charter, as well as the rights of present and future Canadian children under the “public trust doctrine”, by causing, contributing to, and allowing a level of greenhouse gas emissions that is incompatible with a stable climate. The children and youth alleged that climate change resulting from greenhouse gases had interfered with their physical, psychological, and social wellbeing. They also claimed that climate change had threatened their homes, cultural heritage and their hopes and aspirations for the future. As children and youth, they argued that they had a specific vulnerability to climate change, given their stage of development, increased exposure risk and overall susceptibility.