Hawaii Passes Law Affirming Dedication to Paris Accord
On June 6, 2017, Hawaii became the first state to pass a law affirming its dedication to the goals of the Paris accord alongside 195 nations across the globe. The law comes in the face of President’s Trump recent announcement that he would withdraw the United States from the historic agreement.
Governor David Y. Ige signed two bills at a ceremony at the State Capitol Rotunda in Honolulu. The first bill, SB 559, “expands the strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide in alignment with the principles and goals adopted in the Paris Agreement”. The second bill, HB 1578, “establishes the Carbon Farming Task Force within the Office of Planning to identify agricultural and aquacultural practices to improve soil health and promote carbon sequestration in the state’s agricultural and aquaculturally sectors.” See the text of the bills here.
Governor Ige was joined by mayors from around the State, who signed an agreement to commit to the goals of the accord.
As reported by the New York Times, Mr. Ige was quoted as saying, “Many of the greatest challenges of our day hit us first, and that means that we also need to be first when it comes to creating solutions… We are the testing grounds — as an island state, we are especially aware of the limits of our natural environment.”
“Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” he added.
Hawaii is one of more than 10 states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition committed to upholding the Paris accord despite the federal government’s withdrawal from it. The alliance, announced by the Democratic governors of California, Washington and New York at the end of May, also includes Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont.
Those states are working alongside a broader effort by representatives of American cities, states, universities, and companies who are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement. The coalition includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses.
Hawaii is on the front lines of climate change. Last September, President Barack Obama used it as the base from which to discuss his legacy on the issue, as well as the continued threat from rising seas, extreme weather and other byproducts of a warming planet. A report published by the Environmental Protection Agency last August named a shortage of fresh water, ocean acidification and shoreline loss as threats that Hawaii faces as a result of climate change.
The Paris accord, which required that each country submit an individual plan for reducing its carbon emissions, was agreed to by 195 countries in 2015. Though the plan was nonbinding, supporters saw it as an important framework for holding countries accountable in the fight against climate change.
Hawaii’s recent affirmation of its dedication to the Paris accord is a promising and unyielding signal that Hawaii’s legislators are putting the future of our planet before politics.