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California children sue US government over pollution

LOS ANGELES – Children in California are suing the US government over its failure to curb pollution, the latest in a series of legal actions by young people around the world worried about climate change.

The youngsters, aged between eight and 17, say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – the federal regulator – “intentionally allows life-threatening climate pollution to be emitted by the fossil fuel sources of greenhouse gases it regulates, harming children’s health and welfare,” according to Our Children’s Trust, a non-profit law firm.

“Plaintiffs also claim the EPA has discriminated against them as children by discounting the economic value of their lives and their future when it decides whether and how much climate pollution to allow.”

The suit, lodged on Dec 10, asks the federal court to declare the EPA has violated its constitutional rights to equal protection under the law and their fundamental right to life.

One of the litigants, identified only as Genesis because of her age, says she lives in a home without air conditioning that is becoming intolerable as temperatures rise.

“Genesis must keep the windows in her house open in the summer, exposing her to ash from wildfire smoke and more pollen, which worsens her allergies and results in frequent runny noses, coughing, and congestion,” Our Children’s Trust said on its website.

Another child, identified as Maya, suffers from breathing problems and severe headaches that the suit says are down to the increasing prevalence of wildfires.

“Maya loves to play soccer but is unable to compete as competitively as she would like due to these impacts,” the non-profit says.

As well as the EPA, the suit also names the agency’s administrator, Mr Michael Regan, and the United States federal government.

There was no immediate response from the EPA to a request for comment.

The case in California comes after the European Court of Human Rights in September began hearing a complaint brought by six Portuguese youths against 32 nations they accused of not doing enough to stop global warming.

In August, a court in the US state of Montana ruled in favour of a group of youths who accused the state of violating their rights to a clean environment.

That case, which also involved Our Children’s Trust, is now subject to appeal from Montana’s attorney-general.

Our Children’s Trust has ongoing cases in Hawaii, Utah, Virginia and Oregon. AFP

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