Climate change

Hawaii settles lawsuit filed by children that alleged state violated their right to life-sustaining climate

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green released a statement following the settlement affirming the state's commitment to achieving net-negative emissions by 2045.

FILE - Hawaii Gov. Josh Green
AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy

Hawaii's governor and lawyers for youth plaintiffs on Thursday announced they settled a lawsuit alleging Hawaii violated the state constitution by operating a transportation system that harmed the climate and infringed upon the children's right to a clean and healthy environment.

The settlement reached in Navahine v. Hawaii Department of Transportation recognizes children’s constitutional rights to a life-sustaining climate, Gov. Josh Green and attorneys at the public interest law firms Our Children's Trust and Earthjustice said in separate statements.

The agreement confirms the department's commitment to plan and implement changes to reach the state’s goal of net-negative emissions by 2045, the governor said.

The parties said the settlement was the first between a state government and youth plaintiffs to address constitutional issues arising from climate change.

The plaintiffs were aged 9 through 18 at the time the lawsuit was filed in June 2022. Their complaint said the department consistently prioritized building highways over other types of transportation.

The lawsuit said one plaintiff, a 14-year-old Native Hawaiian raised in Kaneohe, was from a family that has farmed taro for more than 10 generations. But extreme droughts and heavy rains caused by climate change reduced crop yields and threatened her ability to continue this cultural practice.

Rising sea levels also threatened to put their lands underwater, the complaint said.

In Montana, the state Supreme Court earlier this year upheld a landmark climate ruling that said regulators must consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when issuing permits for fossil fuel development. That case also was filed by youth plaintiffs.

May marked the 12th month in a row of record global temperatures. The unprecedented milestone follows what was also a record-breaking year for the number of heat-related deaths in the U.S. Meteorologist Chase Cain has a new analysis from Climate Central, identifying where climate change is making heat even more extreme for Americans.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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