Merkley, Senate Colleagues Introduce Resolution Recognizing Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Planning

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today to introduce a resolution to protect the fundamental rights of the nation’s children in the face of climate chaos’ increasingly destructive effects—which include recent raging wildfires and catastrophic hurricanes. The resolution was also introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Pramila Jaypa (WA-07), and Bobby Rush (IL-1).

In September 2019, the Juliana v. United States youth plaintiffs and young American climate leaders, joined by Greta Thunberg, came to Washington to tell the nation’s leaders to act on climate. On the one-year anniversary of that historic event, young people from across the country came together today to celebrate the unveiling of the resolution in a virtual press conference. Their mission is to urge members of Congress to recognize their constitutional rights to a stable climate system and demand climate recovery planning. 

“Every child—regardless of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or their parents’ income—deserves a healthy and prosperous future. But how are they supposed to thrive if their planet is ravaged by frequent and extreme wildfires and hurricanes, and unprecedented heat waves and droughts?” said Merkley, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. “The time is right now to take immediate and decisive steps to stand up for future generations, address the climate crisis, and tackle environmental injustice. To do anything less would be morally reprehensible.”

“The Juliana plaintiffs and youth climate activists and leaders around this country are leading the charge to safeguard their generation’s rights to life, liberty, and prosperity. We cannot let them be the last generation to know a world before complete climate chaos. We have a chance to see system-wide change unlike any that has come before because of this movement of young people demanding action now. I join them in their effort and support for this resolution,” said Markey.

“As the massive infernos raging across the West make clear, the climate crisis is here and it’s putting the health and well-being of Americans and future generations in jeopardy,” Wyden said. “Our children and grandchildren deserve a future free from fear of a global crisis they had little to do with creating. I applaud these young Oregonians and youth plaintiffs for taking a leadership role and pressing the American government to develop an urgent, comprehensive, science-based plan to address the climate crisis head on and save our planet for future generations.”

“The impacts of climate change are already harming the everyday lives of Americans – and especially the lives of our children. From natural disasters that uproot families to the increased rates of asthma in younger people, and particularly in communities of color – we cannot turn a blind eye to these and the many other devastating consequences of climate change. Without action, these consequences will only get worse. It’s past time for Congress to take meaningful steps to address climate change, and I urge my colleagues to get serious about this threat,” said Van Hollen.

“Our kids are going to be the ones who feel the impacts of our climate action–or inaction,” said Heinrich. “We need to heed their urgent calls to address the climate crisis head-on. I am proud to stand with all of the young climate activists who are demanding real action and science-based solutions to the greatest challenge of our generation.”

“Our children and grandchildren stand to be the greatest beneficiaries of the steps we take today to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Whitehouse.  “It’s on all of us to take action to leave the next generation a healthy, hospitable planet while the window of opportunity to address climate change is still open.”

The Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution recognizes that the current climate crisis disproportionately affects the health, economic opportunity, and fundamental rights of children, and demands that the United States develop a national, comprehensive, science-based, and just climate recovery plan to meet necessary emissions reduction targets. In addition, the resolution affirms a steadfast commitment to the principles underpinning Juliana v. United States, the landmark constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 21 young Americans, and youth climate organization Earth Guardians, who are suing the executive branch of the federal government for creating a national energy system that causes climate change. 

The Juliana plaintiffs are fighting for their constitutional rights to a stable climate system, so that their generation and future generations can flourish.

The youngest plaintiff in the Juliana case, 13-year-old Floridian Levi Draheim said, “I spent most of my life living on a barrier island and I joined the lawsuit when I was 8 years old because climate change harms young people like me. I have been evacuated from my home and my school has been closed due to hurricanes. I need to have a voice in the court system because my constitutional rights are at risk and I can’t vote. I feel hopeful that members of Congress are now recognizing my fundamental rights and demanding a climate plan to protect children, like me and my new baby sister.” Learn more about Levi and 21 Juliana plaintiffs here

The following organizations expressed their support for the Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution: 

“To uphold children’s fundamental rights, the United States must act swiftly to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis, phase out fossil fuel emissions and provide economic opportunity and prosperity for our communities, while securing the future of our children. With severe wildfires, stronger storms, and rising sea levels impacting communities across the U.S. and the world, it is young people who are most impacted by climate chaos in the long run. The U.S. must commit to climate action on behalf of the millions of young people who have demanded action on the climate crisis for current and future generations. 350 is in full support of the Children’s Fundamental Climate Rights and Recovery Resolution,” says Natalie Mebane, Associate Director of U.S. Policy of

“Moms understand that climate change is a fundamental threat to our most precious resource: our children. Even as parents are grappling with the enormous health, social, and economic impacts of COVID-19, we know that there is another, more long-term, threat to our children’s health and future — the climate crisis. Right now, climate-fueled wildfires burn across the West, and climate-fueled storms pummel the Southeast. The urgent need for climate action is literally hitting home. It is time to put our children first, by recognizing that all children deserve a safe and stable future in which they can thrive. The Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery resolution demands that the United States develop a science-based climate recovery plan to meet necessary emissions reduction targets. Moms Clean Air Force and our more than one million members applaud the cosponsors of this important resolution that will ensure our children have a safe and equitable climate future,” states Molly Rauch, Public Health Policy Director of Moms Clean Air Force.

“As dedicated health professionals who are passionate about climate change, it’s clear why the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments supports the Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution. It’s vital that we recognize the fundamental rights of children, the disproportionate impacts from climate change on youth, and the need for national climate recovery planning. This resolution does exactly that. We are in a new dawn regarding environmental health in the US and, in fact, globally. We have reached the point where we must act now   to address the many health risks we are all experiencing as a result of climate change and to avoid irreversible climate peril. The future of children in this country and around the world is at stake. It’s crucial for the federal government to address the systemic issue of climate change, including ending policies and investments in fossil-fuel energy that cause climate change. We support the Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution because, as nurses, it is our duty to ensure adequate health protections for all people, including those most vulnerable to human-caused climate change, and in advocating for the necessary changes in policies and practices to protect children’s health,” said Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM, FAAN, Executive Director of Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments 

“The ties between systemic racism, environmental justice and the climate crisis have never been so clear. This resolution speaks to the children from marginalized communities and families on the frontline. We commend Senator Merkley and Representatives Schakowsky, Jayapal and Rush for their leadership on this resolution to ensure climate justice for our children from all communities,” said Dr. Cecilia Martinez, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy.

“The plaintiffs deserve to have their constitutional claims heard at trial,” asserts Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit, public interest law firm behind Juliana v. United States. “The Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution sends a message that youth’s rights must be recognized and the need for a national science-based climate recovery plan is urgent as wildfires rage on, the seas continue to rise, extreme storms and floods worsen, and systemic civil injustices persist. It is now incumbent on the judicial branch to ensure that the fundamental rights of children are protected.” 

For the full list of 50 organizational endorsements and additional statements of support, click here

Learn more about the 21 Juliana plaintiffs here and the resolution here.

Download the fact sheet here.