Hawaii becomes first state to pass laws in support of Paris accord
Sentinel & Enterprise
By Katie Mettler
The Washington Post
When the traditional Hawaiian canoe Hokule’a set sail four years ago, the wayfinders on board — men and women navigating the open sea by a map of stars — vowed to seek a renewed sense of self and share with the world a treasured message:
The Hokule’a, a voyaging canoe built to revive the centuries-old tradition of Polynesian exploration, makes its way up the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Sailed by a crew of 12 who use only celestial navigation and observation of nature, the canoe is two-thirds of the way through a four-year trip around the world.
In Hawaiian, it means to care for Island Earth, a mission especially important to Pacific Islanders, whose home and economy is under constant threat from the rising seas and coral bleaching caused by a warming planet.
This week, the wayfinders will return to a Hawaii that on Tuesday took a defiant stand, becoming the first state to legally implement portions of the landmark Paris climate agreement that President Trump chose to abandon.
“Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a bill signing ceremony Tuesday in Honolulu.
Tides are getting higher, biodiversity is shrinking, coral is bleaching, coastlines are eroding, weather is becoming more extreme.
We must acknowledge these realities at home.”
Ige said the state has a “kuleana,” or responsibility, to the Earth.
“Like the voyaging canoe Hokule’a, we are one canoe, one island, one planet,” the governor said.
“We cannot afford to mess this up.
We are setting a course to change the trajectory of Hawaii and islanders for generations to come.”
With Ige’s signature, two bills became law.
The first, SB 559, expanded strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide, a tenet of the Paris agreement.
The second, HB 1578, established the Carbon Farming Task Force within the state’s Office of Planning, to support the development of sustainable agriculture practices in Hawaii, a skill native islanders had once mastered before planes, freighters and Amazon linked them to the mainland.
Both bills were introduced in January, after President Trump moved into the White House and began what many climate scientists felt was a wholesale dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency and a reversal of the steps taken by the Obama administration to combat global warming.
They weren’t meant to be signed into law for several more weeks, Scott Glenn, an environmental adviser to Ige, told The Washington Post.
But after Trump announced the United States would exit the Paris agreement, Glenn and his co-chair on the Sustainable Hawaii Initiative recommended the bill signing and ceremony be moved up because “this was of such national importance,” he said.
Senate majority leader Sen. Kalani English, a Democrat, introduced SB 559 and said in a statement Tuesday that it gave Hawaii the “legal basis to continue adaptation and mitigation strategies . . . despite the Federal government’s withdrawal from the treaty.”
Ige also committed Hawaii to the U.S. Climate Alliance, a collection of 12 states — including Massachusetts — and Puerto Rico who have vowed to uphold the Paris climate agreement on the state level.
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