July 12th, 2024

Youth-led challenge of Ontario’s climate plan goes before province’s highest court

By The Canadian Press on January 15, 2024.

Seven young people are taking their challenge of Ontario's climate change plan to the province's highest court. People participate in a climate protest in Toronto, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

TORONTO – Seven young people are taking their challenge of Ontario’s climate change plan to the province’s highest court.

A lawyer for the group told the Court of Appeal for Ontario today that the case is about whether the province should be allowed to exacerbate the existential threat of climate change.

The group of young people between the ages of 16 and 28 have argued Ontario is breaking their Charter rights by setting emissions targets dangerously low, putting their futures at risk.

A trial judge last year dismissed the group’s constitutional challenge, but agreed the province’s plan falls “severely short of the scientific consensus” of what’s required to tackle climate change.

The lawsuit, backed by the environmental law charity Ecojustice, dates back to 2018 when the Progressive Conservative government revised its emissions target to 30 per cent below 2005 levels.

Experts for the group have said the revised target would allow for an additional 200 million tonnes of planet-warming emissions to be released.

A spokesperson for the government has previously said Ontario is leading the country’s progress on emissions reductions, including through investments in electric vehicle production and public transit expansion.

The appeal is part of a wave of youth-led climate litigation across Canada and other parts of the world where young people argue government inaction in the face of increasingly dire circumstances is a violation of their rights.

A Federal Court of Appeal ruling last month reopened the door for 15 young people to bring a constitutional challenge against the Canadian government over its response to climate change.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2024.

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