Hawaii Becomes the First State to Pass a Law Committing to the Paris Climate Accord

Hanauma Bay Beach, island of Oahu, Hawaii
UNITED STATES - APRIL 23: Hanauma Bay Beach, island of Oahu, Hawaii, United States of America. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
De Agostini—Getty Images

Hawaii has become the first U.S. state to enact legislation to bring its environmental standards in line with the Paris climate accord, officials said on Wednesday, less than a week after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the global agreement.

Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a bill on Tuesday requiring state officials to plan a response to climate change that aligns the state with the standards and goals of the Paris pact, according to Scott Glenn, an environmental adviser to the governor.

“People come to Hawaii to enjoy its environment,” Glenn said. “When climate change is threatening our reefs and threatening our weather … then it’s threatening our economy, too.”

Although Hawaii already has strong environmental rules, the new law is the first to directly refer to the standards of the Paris agreement, said Glen Andersen, who tracks energy and climate issues at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Along with setting climate change as a priority for the state, the bill creates a state commission dedicated to studying climate change and putting out detailed plans for responding both to sea-level rise and climate change as a whole, with the stipulation that the plans align with the Paris agreement.

Trump said on Thursday that the landmark 2015 climate agreement threatened millions of jobs and productivity, and that he would start a multi-year process to withdraw from the deal, which has been signed by almost every other nation on Earth.

The governors of Washington, California and New York on the same day announced the creation of a “climate alliance” of states that would remain committed to the Paris goals. Ige joined the alliance on Friday.

An overwhelming majority of scientists say human activity – including the burning of oil, gas and coal – is the main driver of rising global temperatures.

Scientists at the University of Hawaii said in April that sea-level rise driven by global warming will cause flooding of low-lying areas in the state dozens of times per year by 2050, and increase the risk of dangerous interactions between tropical storms and seasonal high tides.

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