Young activists secure historic settlement with Hawaii for zero-emissions transportation

More than 10 young people from across the Hawaiian Islands brought the case of “Navahine v. Hawai‘i Department of Transportation,” the first youth-led constitutional climate lawsuit to address climate pollution caused by the transportation sector

In 2022, thirteen young activists filed a lawsuit against the State of Hawaii, accusing it of violating their constitutional rights by prioritizing the construction and expansion of road infrastructures. Now, the government has reached a historic settlement, promising to accelerate the decarbonization of the transportation sector.

A roadmap to zero emissions by 2045

The agreement establishes a framework for Hawaii to develop a roadmap aimed at achieving zero emissions for its air, land, sea, and island-wide transportation systems by 2045. This model offers a replicable path for decarbonizing transportation systems across the United States and globally.

A collaborative approach to constitutional climate cases

This is the first settlement of its kind where government defendants have chosen to resolve a constitutional climate case in collaboration with young plaintiffs, committing to significant global changes.

“The passion shown by these young people in advocating for a healthy and sustainable future for their generation and those to come is commendable,” said Governor Josh Green. “This agreement informs us on how we, as a state, can best proceed to achieve sustainable goals. Moreover, we can certainly expect to see these and other young people from Hawaii continue to step forward to build the kind of future they desire.”

Legal milestone announced before trial

The agreement was announced just days before the case was set to go to trial, with the young plaintiffs represented by attorneys from the non-profit organizations Earthjustice and Our Children’s Trust.

Navahine v. Hawai’i Department of Transportation was the first constitutional climate lawsuit brought by youth to address climate pollution from the transportation sector. Under the agreement, the Hawaii Department of Transportation must take several actions, including developing a greenhouse gas reduction plan within one year and making ambitious investments in clean transportation infrastructure. This includes completing pedestrian, cycling, and transit networks within five years.

Financial commitments to clean transportation

At least $40 million will go towards expanding the public network of electric vehicle charging stations by 2030. The Department will prioritize reducing greenhouse gases, and a council of young volunteers will be formed to support the department’s climate commitments. A commendable commitment, indeed!

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