The state is defending its climate record. These kids aren’t buying it (and they’re suing)

They claim that the state's operation of its roads has led to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:08 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 8:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fourteen young people in Hawaii who are plaintiffs in a climate change lawsuit against the state are preparing for their day in court.

Ranging between the ages of 8 to 20, they call the case Navahine v. Hawaii Department of Transportation.

The state’s attorneys want the case dismissed, but the youth plaintiffs want to proceed to trial.

The youth claim that the state’s operation of its roads has led to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Department of Transportation is doing the least to move us forward as well as they are actually moving us backwards,” said 15-year-old plaintiff Rylee.

“We are suing the state for accountability to make sure they hold up their side of the contract that they signed saying that they would provide a clean and healthy future,” she added.

Meanwhile, the state is defending its climate agenda.

“The State of Hawaii and the Hawaii Department of Transportation have been national leaders in responding to, preparing for, and mitigating against climate change,” said Deputy Solicitor General Lauren K. Chun, in a statement.

“Informed policy-making, not litigation, is the best way to continue to move forward against the serious threats presented by climate change,” Chun added.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys said constitutional rights were violated. They want DOT to do more to meet the state’s goal to have energy independence and be free of fossil fuels by 2045.

“The Department of Transportation spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the rental car parking facility and did not provide for sufficient charging infrastructure,” Earthjustice attorney Marti Townsend said.

The case is one of several children’s climate lawsuits across the country.

The young Hawaii plaintiffs said they don’t want money from the lawsuit. They want a declaration from the court about the DOT’s responsibility to counter climate change.

“We just want the Department of Transportation to do its job. That’s it. Follow the law,” said Townsend.

But the state points to the current Governor’s agenda battling climate change.

“In his State of the State address, Gov. Green announced that he is rolling out a bold and ambitious climate agenda to continue Hawaii’s leadership in climate adaptation and mitigation,” said Attorney General Anne Lopez.

The state’s motion will be heard on Thursday.