Can Hawaii’s historic climate settlement be replicated?

By Lesley Clark | 06/25/2024 06:21 AM EDT

The stars aligned in the Aloha State for an unprecedented legal agreement to decarbonize transportation.

A man views the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii.

A man views the aftermath of wildfires on Maui last summer. The fires are one of the factors that may have motivated Hawaii officials to reach a landmark climate settlement with young activists. Jae C. Hong/AP

The state of Hawaii — and the young activists who sued it over climate inaction — hope the historic settlement they reached last week will serve as a model for curbing transportation emissions across the country.

But it remains to be seen whether the settlement, which averted a landmark youth climate trial that had been slated to begin this week, is a one-time deal. Hawaii is a deeply blue state where lawmakers declared a climate emergency in 2021 and endorsed ambitious goals to achieve zero emissions by 2045.

And the Aloha State has a tradition of going its own way.


“We were an independent country not that long ago, and the attitude is, ‘this is Hawaii and we do what we want,’” said state Sen. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat. “Maybe it’s a function of isolation, but we do what we’re going to do.”