Kids pack courtroom to support youth climate change lawsuit against Transportation Department

There are 14 plaintiffs ages 8 to 19 who are suing the Department of Transportation for what they call a climate emergency.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:40 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dozens of children packed an Oahu courtroom Thursday to support an out-of-the-box climate change lawsuit against the state.

It’s one of dozens of similar lawsuits across the country, but it’s the only that names a transportation agency.

There are 14 plaintiffs, ages 8 to 19, who are suing the state Department of Transportation for what they call a climate emergency. They say the state isn’t doing enough to reduce carbon emissions and that’s a violation of their constitutional rights.

“Right now the transportation sector is already responsible for a majority of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and these emissions are going up not down,” said Leinaala Ley, Earthjustice attorney.

The state wants the case dismissed and a judge heard arguments on both sides.

The state’s attorneys argued the complaints are vague and that policy issues over climate change should be handled by lawmakers not the courts.

“In connection with climate change in particular, the Supreme Court said that Hawaii is a climate change leader and has adopted a number of statues on climate change laws,” said Attorney Bryan Killian, arguing for the state.

The oldest plaintiff is from Kauai’s North Shore and says she was devastated by unprecedented flooding in 2018.

She fought back tears thinking about her future.

“I am here today and I am in this fight with my fellow kanaka because there is no more time for poor decisions,” said Kalalapaikuanalu Winter, a 19-year-old plaintiff.

Dozens of schoolchildren also attended the packed hearing.

Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree told the youth plaintiffs that he admired their advocacy, but he doesn’t know how he’ll rule and he didn’t set a date for a ruling.

“Sometimes the environment wins in this courtroom and sometimes it loses,” he said.