Defying Trump, Hawaii Becomes First State to Pass Law Committing to Paris Climate Accord

08xp-HAWAII2-master768
Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s Anahola solar array in Hawaii in 2015. Hawaii passed legislation on Tuesday to align the state’s goals to the Paris climate accord. Credit: Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

 

Hawaii on Tuesday became the first state to pass a law committing to the goals and limits of the Paris climate accord, defying President Trump, who announced last week that he would withdraw the United States from the historic agreement.

The state’s governor, David Y. Ige, signed two bills at a ceremony at the state’s capitol rotunda in Honolulu. One of the bills was explicitly geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the landmark goals adopted by world leaders with the Paris Agreement in 2015. The other will establish a task force to help the state improve soil health and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

He was joined by mayors from around the state, who signed an agreement to commit to the goals of the accord.

“Many of the greatest challenges of our day hit us first, and that means that we also need to be first when it comes to creating solutions,” Mr. Ige, a Democrat in his first term as governor, said in remarks before the signing. “We are the testing grounds — as an island state, we are especially aware of the limits of our natural environment.”

Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” he added.

Mike Gabbard, the chairman of the state senate’s agriculture and environment committee was more blunt.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise for any of us to be here, when the president of the United States had climate change removed from the White House website,” he said.

Many references to climate change were removed from the White House site in January, as part of the routine digital turnover from one administration to the next. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency removed much of the climate change information from its website, saying in a news release that the updates were made to “reflect the approach of new leadership.”

Hawaii is one of more than 10 states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition committed to upholding the Paris accord despite the federal government’s withdrawal from it. The alliance, announced by the Democratic governors of California, Washington and New York last week, also includes Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Those states are working parallel to a broader effort being coordinated by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, of cities, corporations and universities that together will submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the targets for the United States specified by the accord. It is unclear how exactly that submission will take place.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown of California met in Beijing with President Xi Jinping of China, upstaging the White House and further suggesting the determination of some states to hew to the climate accord.

Hawaii is on the front lines of climate change, so much so that in September, President Barack Obama used it as the base from which to discuss his legacy on the issue, as well as the continued threat from rising seas, extreme weather and other byproducts of a warming planet. A report published by the Environmental Protection Agency last August named a shortage of fresh water, ocean acidification and shoreline loss as threats that the state faces as a result of climate change.

The Paris accord, which required that each country submit an individual plan for reducing its carbon emissions, was agreed to by 195 countries in 2015. Though the plan was nonbinding, supporters saw it as an important framework for holding countries accountable in the fight against climate change.

Written by 

Advertisements

China and California sign deal to work on climate change without Trump

Governor Jerry Brown says president’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement will be only a temporary setback

China and California have signed an agreement to work together on reducing emissions, as the state’s governor warned that “disaster still looms” without urgent action on climate change.

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, spoke to reporters at an international clean energy conference in Beijing about Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement, saying it would ultimately prove to be only a temporary setback.

For now, he said, China, European countries and individual US states would fill the gap left by the federal government’s decision to abdicate leadership on the issue.

“Nobody can stay on the sidelines. We can’t afford any dropouts in the tremendous human challenge to make the transition to a sustainable future,” Brown said. “Disaster still looms and we’ve got to make the turn.”

Brown later held a closed-door meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during which the two pledged to expand trade between California and China with an emphasis on so-called green technologies that could help address climate change, Brown said. Trump’s announcement last week that he wanted to pull out of the Paris accord did not come up, according to the governor.

“Xi spoke in very positive terms,” Brown told reporters after the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any desire to get into verbal battles with President Trump.”

Trump’s decision drew heavy criticism within the US and internationally, including in China, which swiftly recommitted itself to the agreement forged with the administration of the former US president Barack Obama. Trump argued that the Paris agreement favoured emerging economies such as China’s and India’s at the expense of US workers.

4424
Chinese president Xi Jinping meets visiting California governor Jerry Brown to discuss a climate deal. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

 

Tuesday’s agreement between California and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology effectively sidestepped Trump’s move, bringing about alignment on an issue of rising global importance between the world’s second-largest economy — China — and California, whose economy is the largest of any U.S. state and the sixth largest in the world.

Brown signed similar collaboration agreements over the past several days with leaders in two Chinese provinces, Jiangsu and Sichuan.

Like the Paris accord, the deals are all non-binding. They call for investments in low-carbon energy sources, cooperation on climate research and the commercialisation of cleaner technologies. The agreements do not establish new emission reduction goals.

The US has long been a major player in the clean energy arena, driving innovations in electric cars, renewable power and other sectors of the industry. California, with some of the strictest climate controls in the nation, has been at the forefront of the sector.

China in recent years overtook the US as the world leader in renewable power development. But it has also struggled to integrate its sprawling wind and solar facilities into an electricity grid still dominated by coal-fuelled power plants.

At the same time, Chinese leaders face growing public pressure at home to reduce the health-damaging smog that blankets many urban areas.

China is by far the world’s largest user of coal, which accounts for almost two-thirds of its energy use and has made it the No 1 emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Communist party leaders pledged that greenhouse gas emissions would peak no later than 2030 under the Paris pact, and start to fall after that. They have cancelled the planned construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants and plan to invest at least $360bn in green energy projects by the end of the decade.

The nation’s consumption of coal fell in 2016 for a third consecutive year, but rebounded slightly in 2017. It could meet its 2030 target a decade early.

Published in The Guardian 7 June 2017