Why Fossil Fuel Companies Won’t Defend the Government in Court on Climate

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

Last week, the three major trade groups representing the fossil fuel industry dodged, just in time, being forced to defend their position on climate change in court. The Trump administration, despite its withdrawalfrom the Paris climate accord, will not be so lucky.

Last Thursday the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers filed motions to withdraw from their defense of the government in the groundbreaking case Juliana v. United States. Three days earlier the National Association of Manufacturers had done the same. Taken together, these three giants of American industry are retreating as fast as they can from a case that leaves the administration in a legal squeeze.

The administration and the trade groups have been backed into an extraordinary legal corner in the case brought by 21 youngsters, who allege that, for over three decades, the government promoted the use of fossil fuels while knowing that the resulting greenhouse gases would undermine quality of life for future generations. According to the lawsuit, such willfully destructive actions constitute a violation of the plaintiffs’ rights to a healthy and safe world, and their ability to pass down a livable planet to their offspring. The young plaintiffs demand that the government impose limits on CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions to slow atmospheric corrosion.

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