Non-profit

Our Children’s Trust

Website:

www.ourchildrenstrust.org

Location:

EUGENE, OR

Tax ID:

27-3094382

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2015):

Revenue: $358,739
Expenses: $314,819
Assets: $179,979

Formation:

2010

Founders:

Julia Olson

Mary Wood

Executive Director:

Julia Olson

Our Children’s Trust is a left-of-center “public interest” litigation group which has filed lawsuits on behalf of children and young adults in court to secure “systemic, science-based emissions reductions and climate recovery policy at all levels of government.”[1]

The Trust is most famous for filing the case Juliana v. United States, which asserts that federal energy policy contributes to climate change, supposedly violating a constitutional right to “life, liberty, and property.” If U.S. courts were to rule in the Trust’s favor, judges would be able to establish a cap on total carbon dioxide emissions for the entire country without democratic review or debate.[2]

In addition to filing, the Trust has deployed this lawsuit formula in courts across the U.S. and around the world, most notably in Colombia, where the country’s Supreme Court granted legal rights to a forest. [3]

History

Julia Olson founded Our Children’s Trust in 2010 and serves as the organization’s executive director and chief legal counsel.

Olson is a career environmentalist litigator who founded Our Children’s Trust (ostensibly after being inspired by former Vice President Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth) with the help of another environmental lawyer, Mary Wood. The group received its tax -exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in 2011.[4] On Mother’s Day 2011, the group coordinated either a lawsuit or a petition for administrative rulemaking in all fifty U.S. states, the federal government, and in several countries.[5]

In the course of its legal action, Our Children’s Trust has allied itself to varying degrees with extreme environmental groups and individuals, such as Greenpeace and Dr. James Hansen.[6] [7]

Activism

YouCAN

In addition to advocacy through the courts, the Trust also organizes YouCAN, a program that teaches children and their families how to advocate for and participate in the creation of environmental regulation. The Trust clarifies on its homepage that YouCAN is not interested in creating “a platform for adults to involve youth in pushing for ‘politically feasible’ municipal action for action’s sake. Adopting insufficient climate goals does not benefit youth and future generations, it hurts them.” There are four YouCAN chapters so far, all located in Oregon.[8]

Our Children’s Trust claims to be taking legal action in Belgium, Colombia, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Uganda, and Ukraine.[9]

On April 5, 2018, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trust’s plaintiffs, declaring that the Colombian Amazon forest is an “entity subject of rights.” In effect, the court bestowed the forest with legal personhood, which the government is required to protect.[10]

Florida Climate Change Lawsuit

Our Children’s Trust made headlines in April of 2018 when it organized a group of children to sue Governor Rick Scott (R-Florida) for furthering climate change. Earlier that month, Governor Scott had recently signed one of the largest environmental protection budgets in the state’s history – $4 billion – and dismissed the suit as “political theater.”[11]

Juliana v. U.S.

In 2015, twenty-one children filed suit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court of Oregon, represented in part by Julia Olson. Private fuel companies joined the Obama administration in asking that the suit be dismissed, a request U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ultimately rejected.[12] Coffin called Juliana v. U.S. an “unprecedented lawsuit,” saying:  [13]

“It may be that eventually the alleged harms, assuming the correctness of plaintiffs’ analysis of the impacts of global climate change, will befall all of us. But the intractability of the debates before Congress and state legislatures and the alleged valuing of short term economic interest despite the cost to human life, necessitates a need for the courts.”

After President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the Department of Justice took the unusual step of petitioning for a writ of mandamus to order the U.S. District Court to correct its earlier decision to allow Juliana v. U.S. to trial. In its statement, the Department of Justice said the lower court had “rendered unprecedented and clearly erroneous rulings” and had shown “a remarkable disregard for essential separation-of-powers limitations.”[14]

In July of 2018, the Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s request while also stating, “The breadth of respondents’ claims is striking.”[15] Federal lawyers later described the plaintiffs’ claims as “amorphous and sweeping,” which, if upheld, would create an impossible situation for the government – allowing unlimited judicial review of “all federal policy decisions related to fossil fuels, energy production, alternative energy sources, public lands, and air quality standards.”[16]

References

  1. “Mission.” Our Children’s Trust. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/mission-statement/.
  2. Whelan, Ed. “‘Groundbreaking’ Means ‘Insane’?” National Review. November 15, 2016. Accessed August 13, 2018. https://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/aiken-oregon-climate-change-ruling-juliana/.
  3. Moloney, Anastasia. “Colombia’s Top Court Orders Government to Protect Amazon Forest In…” Reuters. April 06, 2018. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-deforestation-amazon/colombias-top-court-orders-government-to-protect-amazon-forest-in-landmark-case-idUSKCN1HD21Y.
  4. Tigas, Mike, Sisi Wei, Ken Schwencke, and Alec Glassford. “Nonprofit Explorer.” ProPublica. May 09, 2013. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/273094382.
  5. ToddBoyle. “Julia Olson “Our Children’s Trust” PIELC2018.” YouTube. March 13, 2018. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTi-HwNgElQ.
  6. Joint letter signed by Our Children’s Trust, Nature and Youth, and Greenpeace. October 18, 2016, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/571d109b04426270152febe0/t/58063f84b8a79b7443f42382/1476804484786/16.10.18+Norway+PR.pdf
  7. Mooney, Chris. “The Trump Administration Just Failed to Stop a Climate Lawsuit Brought by 21 Kids.” The Washington Post. March 07, 2018. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/03/07/the-trump-administration-just-failed-to-stop-a-climate-lawsuit-brought-by-21-kids/?utm_term=.7a1cb590e6d6.
  8. “Grassroots Legal Actions.” Our Children’s Trust. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/grassroots-legal-actions/.
  9. “Global Legal Actions.” Our Children’s Trust. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/global-legal-actions/.
  10. Moloney, Anastasia. “Colombia’s Top Court Orders Government to Protect Amazon Forest In…” Reuters. April 06, 2018. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-deforestation-amazon/colombias-top-court-orders-government-to-protect-amazon-forest-in-landmark-case-idUSKCN1HD21Y.
  11. Perez, Chris. “Kids Sue Rick Scott for ‘immoral’ Silence on Climate Change.” New York Post. April 16, 2018. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/04/16/kids-sue-rick-scott-for-immoral-silence-on-climate-change/.
  12. Harvey, Chelsea. “These Fossil-fuel Groups Joined a Historic Climate Lawsuit. Now, They Want to Get out of It.” The Washington Post. May 26, 2017. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/05/26/three-fossil-fuel-groups-joined-a-historic-climate-lawsuit-now-they-want-to-get-out-of-it/?utm_term=.546d70baaab7.
  13. Conca, James. “Federal Court Rules On Climate Change In Favor Of Today’s Children.” Forbes. April 13, 2016. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/04/10/federal-court-rules-on-climate-change-in-favor-of-todays-children/.
  14. Writ of Mandamus, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/571d109b04426270152febe0/t/593b2e36e58c62c93bb76ff3/1497050679447/APPELLATE-%23354380-v1-Juliana_-_petition_for_mandamus_and_request_for_stay_for_filing.PDF
  15. Walrath, Rowan, Amy Thomson, Megan Jula, Rebecca Leber, and Pema Levy. “Supreme Court Says Kids Can Sue Trump over Climate Change.” Mother Jones. July 31, 2018. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2018/07/supreme-court-says-kids-can-sue-trump-over-climate-change/.
  16. Bennett, Lisa. “Children May Soon Have Their Day in Court on Climate Change.” The Huffington Post. January 11, 2018. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/children-may-soon-have-their-day-in-court-on-climate_us_5a56e2fee4b024fa0543b6a8.

    Livni, Ephrat. “Kids around the World Are Suing Their Governments for Ruining the Planet.” Quartz. December 16, 2017. Accessed August 11, 2018. https://qz.com/1156876/juliana-vs-usa-kids-are-suing-over-climate-change/

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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 2011

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Dec Form 990 $358,739 $314,819 $179,979 $376 N $357,145 $230 $1 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $230,470 $139,541 $136,669 $986 N $224,848 $5,099 $23 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $143,482 $182,164 $50,816 $6,062 N $143,482 $0 $0 $25,000 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $118,814 $285,394 $84,486 $1,050 N $118,814 $0 $0 $50,000 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,118,053 $868,037 $256,508 $6,492 N $1,118,053 $0 $0 $52,083 PDF

    Our Children’s Trust

    PO BOX 5181
    EUGENE, OR 97405-0181