Hawaii has become the first U.S. state to enact legislation to comply with the Paris agreement on fighting climate change, in direct contrast to the national line.
The U.S. signed the agreement under former President Barack Obama, but his successor Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from it, calling it a “bad deal” and suggesting it would cost the U.S. economy.
But for the Democratic governor of Hawaii, David Ige, fighting climate change is priceless. “Hawaii is united in its political leadership to fight climate change,” he said, after signing two laws on Tuesday that aim to reduce carbon emissions and support sustainable agricultural practices.
“Hawaii’s natural environment provides the foundation of our livelihood. Yet, Hawaii’s natural environment is now under threat. Climate change is real, regardless of what others say. Hawaii is seeing the impact first hand. 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,” the governor added.
According to him, the Hawaiian state has a responsibility to protect the Earth. “We cannot afford to mess this up. We are setting a course to change the trajectory of Hawaii and islanders for generations to come,” Ige said.
The legislation had passed in January, ahead of Trump’s inauguration, but the governor speed-tracked the signing of the bills following the president’s announcement on the Paris agreement, The Washington Post reported.
The governor’s announcement marks the second time that Hawaii leads the nation in defying the president’s initiatives. Hawaii was the first state to file a legal challenge against both versions of Trump’s travel ban —the original and the revised version heading for the Supreme Court—delaying their nationwide implementation. The federal judge that ruled in favor of the state, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii, is now living under 24-hour police protection after receiving threatening messages.
The Trump administration is appealing the ruling. “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power," Attorney General Jeff Sessions told conservative radio host Mark Levin in April, as he discussed the Justice Department’s appeal.
Sessions’ dismissive comments elicited a response from Hawaii’s Attorney General Dougal Chin. “Our Constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason,” he said, “It is disappointing [Attorney General] Sessions does not acknowledge that.”
The home state of President Obama and home of the strategically important Pearl Harbor naval base, Hawaii voted by a vast majority for the Democratic Party in the 2016 presidential election.
With her 266,891 preferences, Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton won 62 percent of the vote, while Trump accumulated less than half at 128,847. No Republican candidate has won the state of Hawaii since 1984, since Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory.