Bill would have state uphold terms of Paris accord

Honolulu Star Advertiser - March 4, 2017
Taylor Polson

Hawaii legislators have drafted a bill that would make the state an eco-friendly outlier.

In response to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from some international environmental commitments, lawmakers have introduced a measure to incorporate requirements into state law that reflect many of the environmental obligations agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming.

Senate Bill 559 would require the state to adopt “the best available science to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Regardless of federal action, the legislature supports the goals of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and its effects on environments, economies, and communities around the world,” the bill states.

The Paris Agreement was the product of a collaborative effort among 195 countries in December 2015, during the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The agreement was ratified in November. So far, 133 counties have endorsed the accord, according to the U.N. convention’s website.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader J. Kalani English said the vast majority in Hawaii wants to do something about global warming.

“If the federal government is going to pull out, we still have the ability to participate in it in our own way,” English said of the Paris Agreement. “We’re facing climate change much more drastically than other parts of the Union and other territories and countries. We have flooding, strange weather … mangoes, breadfruit and lychees coming in off-season.

“It’s been the long-standing policy of Hawaii to participate in international forums and also to do our part to protect the environment,” said English (D, Molokai-Lanai-East Maui).

Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment, said the bill “is about continuing our state’s international leadership on climate change.”

“President Trump has made comments that he’s not on board with climate-change efforts,” Gabbard said. “The idea with the bill is to ensure that our state stays the course on the Paris Agreement and to continue with greenhouse gas reductions.”

Organizations supporting the bill included Healthy Climate Communities, The Maritime Group, The Nature Conservancy, Americans for Democratic Action, Hawaii Green Growth, Life of the Land, Conservation Council for Hawaii, The Island Agency and the Sierra Club of Hawaii.

Only a few residents opposed the bill. Anthony Orozco said in written testimony that the measure amounts to “pure arrogance.”

“That’s all this bill is,” he wrote. “That some humans think they can control the weather. I don’t want any of my tax dollars going into this climate change foolishness.”

The bill would assign the Department of Accounting and General Services to implement strategies to reduce emissions across all government agencies in the state. DAGS would be required to post emission contribution levels every five years online.

The measure also delegates responsibilities — such as climate-change education and ensuring public participation, awareness and open access to information — to various state departments and agencies.

The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Monday with an 8-0 vote. The bill will now go to the full Senate for final consideration.