Monday, January 26, 2009

Climate Change & States' Rights

President Barack Obama is ready to give states more leeway to curb emissions from cars and to get the federal government moving on fuel-efficiency standards that could remake the auto industry.

Environment issues have become a legal dilemma within the United States. The states of Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Montana have enshrined protection of the environment in their state Constitutions, but state laws can be superseded but federal legislation.

States, individually and collectively, have been at the forefront of the regulation of green house gases, even outpacing the federal government.

The U.S. Constitution does protect the “life, liberty and property” of its citizens, but does not specifically state that a clean and healthy environment is an inalienable right. Currently there is no such right presently recognized under the U.S. Constitution, although there is under the constitutions of the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa and even arguably under international law.

The movement to regulate emissions has been grassroots so far, but all of that may be changing with the new administration in Washington, DC.

On April 22 students from around the world will deliberate over whether a clean environment should be a right protected by their government during The Exchange: A Marketplace of Student Ideas. For more information go to

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