McGill Law Student Wins Global Essay Contest Arguing for Future Generations’ Climate Rights
A McGill University law student earned a spot at the United Nations Youth Climate Summit this past weekend by writing the winning submission to The Economist’s Open Future Essay Competition.
Larissa Parker’s essay argued that the legal right to a healthy climate should extend to future generations that will be most severely affected by the climate crisis. It was chosen from among 2,400 entries from 130 countries, CBC reports.
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“The problem arises from the legal standing of future generations—or lack thereof, for they are generally not currently considered identifiable individuals under the law,” she wrote. “Although it is easy to grasp their fundamental interest in a healthy environment, the law is reluctant to grant them recognition. This is because most of those individuals have not been born yet.
“How or when they will experience the impacts of climate change remains undetermined. Nevertheless, they represent our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is conceivable that, at the very least, we have a duty to ensure they inherit the planet in a condition that is comparable to ours.”
Parker, who’s attended past UN climate conferences as a youth delegate, added that “this type of thinking has already led a handful of legal systems to begin recognizing such rights, at least in limited form,” with cases now pending in the Philippines, Pakistan, the United States, Canada, and Britain.
“As a law student, you’re kind of always trying to solve problems that seem impossible,” Parker told CBC. “I think one of the reasons governments and businesses aren’t taking climate change seriously is because it’s not going to happen in their lifetime,” but “who’s going to speak for future generations?”