Hawaii de­fies Trump on ac­cord

It be­comes the first state to pass a law com­mit­ting to the Paris cli­mate deal

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Kur­tis Lee kur­tis.lee@la­times.com

Amid a widen­ing par­ti­san di­vide over cli­mate change, Hawaii law­mak­ers have a mes­sage for Pres­i­dent Trump: The Paris agree­ment is needed.

Re­belling against the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion last week to pull out of the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate ac­cord, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed into law a mea­sure that aims to push Hawaii to­ward do­ing its part to achieve the world­wide green­house gas re­duc­tions the agree­ment calls for.

It is the first law in the na­tion di­rectly re­spond­ing to the de­ci­sion, though more are ex­pected.

In ad­di­tion to en­cour­ag­ing emis­sions cuts, the law signed Tuesday also pro­motes “en­vi­ron­men­tal in­tegrity” and the con­ser­va­tion of wet­lands and forests — key tenets of the ac­cord, which was signed in 2015 by nearly ev­ery coun­try.

The leg­is­la­tion also com­mit­ted Hawaii to the newly formed U.S. Cli­mate Al­liance, which con­sists of a dozen states and Puerto Rico that have promised to up­hold the Paris cli­mate agree­ment on the state level.

As a se­ries of low-ly­ing is­lands in the mid­dle of the Pa­cific Ocean, Hawaii is par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to global warm­ing. For decades, ris­ing sea lev­els and in­creased coastal f lood­ing and ero­sion have harmed frag­ile coastal ecosys­tems, de­stroyed crops and dam­aged roads, struc­tures and other in­fra­struc­ture.

“Cli­mate change is real, re­gard­less of what oth­ers may say,” the Demo­cratic gover­nor said at a sign­ing cer­e­mony in Honolulu. “Hawaii is see­ing the im­pacts first­hand. 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.”

He added: “We are the test­ing grounds…. We are es­pe­cially aware of the lim­its of our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

The Paris deal was forged among 195 coun­tries with the aim of pre­vent­ing the most dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of global warm­ing by lim­it­ing the tem­per­a­ture rise to “well be­low” 2 de­grees Cel­suis com­pared with pre-in­dus­trial times. Its tar­gets were not bind­ing, and sci­en­tists cau­tioned that more ac­tion would be needed. But the agree­ment was widely seen as the world’s best ef­fort to fight cli­mate change.

Last year, shortly be­fore the ac­cord took ef­fect, Pres­i­dent Obama called it “his­toric … in the fight to pro­tect our planet for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

In with­draw­ing the U.S. from the ac­cord, Trump said it un­der­mined the econ­omy and weak­ened na­tional sovereignty. Be­sides the United States, the only coun­tries not signed on are Syria, which is en­ter­ing its sixth year of civil war, and Nicaragua, which wanted bind­ing caps on emis­sions and penal­ties for coun­tries that did not meet their com­mit­ments.

Cal­i­for­nia, New York and other states pushed back al­most im­me­di­ately, vow­ing to abide by the ideals and tenets of the agree­ment.

This week, Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown trav­eled to China for meet­ings with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to dis­cuss the is­sue.

Law­mak­ers in Hawaii had been await­ing Trump’s de­ci­sion on the ac­cord, hav­ing crafted the leg­is­la­tion as he took of­fice in Jan­uary so it would be ready if he ful­filled his cam­paign prom­ise to pull out.

“We knew this was com­ing and wanted to make sure this state was in a po­si­tion to move ahead,” said Hawaii Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader J. Kalani English, who has crit­i­cized Trump for call­ing cli­mate change a hoax. “We want to be a part of the so­lu­tion and slow down cli­mate change.”

“If the pres­i­dent is not go­ing to lead on cli­mate change, it’s on the states,” he said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “We’re not go­ing to sit on the side­lines.”

English, who lives near the shore of Hana, Maui, said he saw ris­ing sea lev­els first­hand. He grew up in the area, he said, and it’s clear the shore­line has come in­land over the decades.

“Flood­ing hap­pens on roads and where it never did be­fore,” he said. “This is real.”

A 2014 study by the Uni­ver­sity of Hawaii pro­jected that the is­lands would be dras­ti­cally trans­formed as the cli­mate be­comes more arid and sea lev­els rise as much as 3 feet by the end of the cen­tury.

In­creas­ing tem­per­a­tures are also driv­ing na­tive for­est birds on Kauai to­ward ex­tinc­tion, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished last year in the jour­nal Science Ad­vances. Sci­en­tists found steep de­clines in the pop­u­la­tions of honey-creep­ers, a fa­mously di­verse fam­ily of for­est birds.

As a re­sult of warm­ing, Hawaii would also be es­pe­cially hard hit by short­ages of fresh wa­ter and shore­line loss, ac­cord­ing to a re­port last year by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

On Tuesday, Ige also signed a sep­a­rate bill to cre­ate a Car­bon Farm­ing Task Force to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture prac­tices in Hawaii.

Kent Nishimura For The Times

“CLI­MATE CHANGE is real, re­gard­less of what oth­ers may say,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said. “Hawaii is see­ing the im­pacts first­hand.”

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