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Time to Listen to Those Affected Most by Climate Change

Earthjustice has worked with environmental justice leaders and colleagues at other national organizations over the last year to co-author the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform.

Deborah Adegbile lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where extreme flooding has made it difficult for her to get to school. She is one of 16 youths who brought a UN petition calling for immediate climate action.

Deborah Adegbile lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where extreme flooding has made it difficult for her to get to school. She is one of 16 youths who brought a UN petition calling for immediate climate action.

Michael Rubenstein for Earthjustice

This week, 16 young people from around the world came together to demand a future. Represented by Earthjustice, they brought to the UN an incredibly moving legal complaint that charges nations with failing to seriously address the climate crisis.

Deborah Adegbile is one of these courageous activists. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where the rainy seasons are getting much longer, causing extreme flooding. On some days, Deborah’s parents must carry her and her siblings to school because the flood waters are so high.

Along with last week’s global youth-led climate strike, the UN petition illustrates how young people are leading the fight for climate justice. It also offers a sobering reminder that the people least responsible for creating the crisis will be the ones who suffer from it most acutely.

The people at the front lines of climate change must be at the forefront of climate solutions. To that end, Earthjustice has been extraordinarily fortunate to work with environmental justice leaders and colleagues at other national organizations over the last year to co-author the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform. This groundbreaking agreement commits us to work together for climate solutions that benefit everyone — especially communities hardest hit by climate change — by recognizing and countering systemic racism and injustice.

For too long, economically disadvantaged communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color have suffered the brunt of toxic air and water pollution from the global fossil fuel economy, while enjoying the least access to affordable energy, transportation, and housing. We know that clean energy, resilient infrastructure, sustainable farming, and other climate solutions can be engines of health and wealth in every community. We could be targeting those benefits where they are needed most. But the environmental movement’s predominant focus on carbon reductions has been disconnected from the ways in which the climate crisis invites and demands solutions to these other, older problems.

A climate movement powered by community leadership and a passion for justice is the movement we need now.

At Earthjustice, we are incredibly privileged to represent and partner with local leaders who are leading iconic fights for their communities and our shared future. At this moment, the Gwich’in people are fighting to block oil drilling on the sacred lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In Louisiana, the residents of St. James Parish are fending off a raft of massive new petrochemical plants. In Illinois, river activists are celebrating a new mandate to clean up coal ash dumps that are leaking toxic chemicals into their waterways. And in South Africa, environmental justice advocates are demanding their constitutional right to clean air. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of fights that are ongoing now to preserve and restore healthy communities, and to contribute to a livable climate. They are all fights for justice.

Thank you for all you do to help us win them.

This material is distributed by Earthjustice on behalf of Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.