In 2015, twenty-one youth plaintiffs and environmental activists caught global attention when they sued the United States government for its complicity in perpetuating climate change. Juliana v. United States was likely the highest- profile climate case yet, and the next year, a federal district court judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed. But in 2020, the plaintiffs lost in the Ninth Circuit where the court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing.
Despite this loss, Juliana remains a remarkable case, if anything for the inspiration it provided for potential and future litigants. Indeed, climate litigation has only increased since the Juliana plaintiffs first filed their case, both domestically and internationally. With the proliferation of climate litigation comes both an opportunity and an ethical imperative: the chance and the need to include environmental justice in climate litigation strategy.
Climate change is an environmental justice issue, and as such, our collective response to climate change must be one that not merely recognizes but actively acts on environmental justice principles. Juliana provides insight as to how—and where—environmental justice can play a key role in climate litigation strategy. The Ninth Circuit asserted that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the redressability element of standing, implicitly signaling that future climate litigants must focus on an effective request for relief. This Note thus focuses on how to incorporate environmental justice into the remedy stage of climate litigation.
Part I provides background information on environmental justice and climate litigation, the Juliana case, and the doctrine of standing as it relates to both Juliana and future climate litigation. Part II describes the history and characteristics of structural injunctions, as well as a proposal for structural injunctions in climate litigation, specifically incorporating environmental justice into the remedy. Finally, the Note concludes with a discussion of our collective moral imperative to address climate change in both an expedient and equitable fashion.