After over 250 US mayors expressed their continued support for the Paris Agreement, states are also starting to take action. The very next day after the governor of California discussed directly with China and pledged to follow solid environmental policies, the governor of Hawaii, David Ige, signed a bill to align Hawaii to the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Last week, President Trump publicly announced his intention to exit the Paris Agreement, the global framework to reduce emissions and limit global warming as much as possible. This has spurred an immediate backlash, both nationally and overseas. But the time for reactions has passed, and the time for action has come.
Hawaii is almost certainly the most threatened US state, in terms of climate change. A recently published study has concluded that climate change will bring nothing short of ruin to the islands, destroying tourism almost entirely and killing off the native wildlife.
“To lose coral reefs is to fundamentally undermine the health of a very large proportion of the human race,” said Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. “We’ve lost 50 percent of the reefs, but that means we still have 50 percent left,” said Gates, who is working in Hawaii to breed corals that can better withstand increasing temperatures. “We definitely don’t want to get to the point where we don’t intervene until we have 2 percent left.”
— Honolulu Civil Beat (@CivilBeat) June 7, 2017
Ige feels that first hand. He sees the tides coming higher, the coast eroding, the corals bleaching, and the biodiversity shrinking. He — and implicitly, Hawaii — is in the first line of the battle against climate change; and he is not remaining idle.
“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.
Hawaii is already one of the more than 10 states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition which has pledged to bypass the White House and respect the Paris Agreement despite Trump’s plans. By bringing this in a legally coherent form, Hawaii becomes the first state to officially pledge its support of the Paris accord. We’ll see if this triggers a domino-like reaction for other states.