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Protecting Future Generations from Climate Change in the United States

Mar 11, 2023

Andrea White

Volume 49 (2022) - Issue 2

Protecting future generations from the effects of climate change is an important issue, especially considering how much the United States has struggled to implement climate policy. Two recent European judicial decisions, Notre Affaire à Tous v. France and Neubauer v. Germany, may provide helpful guidance to the United States because they demonstrate a commitment to protecting future generations from climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In these decisions, both courts relied on their respective civil codes and constitutions to determine that their countries had either exceeded their carbon emissions reduction goals, as was the case in Notre Affaire à Tous, or that their commitments were not aggressive enough, as in Neubauer. However, these cases will likely prove difficult for the United States to emulate because it is not a civil law country, does not rely on international environmental agreements, and contains no federal constitutional environmental provisions. Therefore, the United States may have to rely on other methods of protecting future generations. First, this Note will explain these judicial decisions, including background on the French and German civil legal systems. Then, it will explore the various ways that the United States can similarly protect future generations from emissions, including through federal constitutional amendments, due process arguments, state constitutional provisions and amendments, and executive orders. Ultimately, this Note concludes that, besides a federal amendment to the Constitution, each of these can ensure the United States addresses the climate crisis to protect future generations.