Friday, June 2, 2017
by IVY ASHE
President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord drew sharp criticism from Hawaii's congressional delegation on Thursday.
"In Hawaii, we understand why it's important to take care of our land, ocean and air — our way of life depends on it," Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a statement.
Hirono, along with Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, said the decision was "shortsighted."
"We must do all we can towards 100% sustainable energy independence," Gabbard said in a tweet. In a statement, she said the United States should be investing in clean energy and "creating renewable energy jobs that cannot be outsourced."
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said it was a "sad statement that Republicans continue to refute science and the will of the international community on an issue of global importance."
Schatz called it "immoral."
"We are appalled and disappointed, but we are not deterred," he said. "With private sector momentum behind clean energy, states, cities and regions are taking action."
Hawaii is one of those states. During this year's state legislative session, Hawaii representatives passed Senate Bill 559, which lays the groundwork for Hawaii to continue following the Paris guidelines even if the federal government does not.
"The way the Paris accord is set up is adaptation and mitigation," Maui Sen. J. Kalani English, the bill's introducer, told the Tribune-Herald on Thursday.
"So we mirror that. (SB 559) puts Hawaii in accord with all the other countries in the world, except for two — well, there'll be three now."
Syria and Nicaragua did not sign on to the Paris agreement, but Nicaragua opted out because its government thought the accord did not go far enough.
"Their reason was it was too weak," English said.
SB 559 was approved 25-0 in the Senate and 49-1 in the House with one member excused. It is currently awaiting a signature from Gov. David Ige.
English is Senate majority leader and said he introduced the bill after learning of the Trump administration's proposed 100-day plan back in January, which included leaving the accord.
"I was anticipating this," he said. "I was hoping the people around the president would show him (otherwise) … but the president chose to withdraw us from the treaty. That's his prerogative as president. We respect that, but we have to do our own thing."
"If you live anywhere near the ocean, you see the sea level rise," he said.
"All of the indicators in the environment are there … we don't question it.
"What I'm dealing with in Hana, along the Hana highway, sea level rise has been eroding the sides of the mountains … there've been many, many (road) closures along the way. Long term, we (also) have to look at our economic hubs. Our major cities are all along the coast."
"(English) was really the one to bring many of us together in the Senate because we weren't sure how the current administration was going to react to the Paris agreement," said state Sen. Kai Kahele, D-Hilo, who co-introduced the bill.
"He proved to be right," Kahele said, calling the Trump decision "disappointing."
Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka'u, also co-introduced SB 559, but was out of state Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
"The bottom line is we can no longer depend on our federal government when it comes to environmental issues," Kahele said.
"It's time for states and cities across America to step up and enact their own laws, their own policies."
"I'm really glad Hawaii got out in front of it," he continued. "Other states might be looking at the legislation we passed."
English said the bill was stronger than originally written when it came out of committee hearings.
"It shows Hawaii as a leader in this area, that we're willing to do it on our own," he said.
The Legislature also passed House Concurrent Resolution 113, which calls on all states as well as the federal government to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, and House Bill 1578, which sets up a process for farmers to receive carbon credit dollars for using carbon sequestration practices.
Email Ivy Ashe at firstname.lastname@example.org.