State of Hawaii

06/20/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/20/2024 19:41

Office of the Governor – News Release – Historic Agreement Settles Navahine Climate Litigation





Transportation Department Commits to

Bold Action to Achieve 2045 Zero Emission Goals


June 20, 2024

HONOLULU ̶ Governor Josh Green, M.D., today joined youth plaintiffs in announcing the resolution of the Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation constitutional climate case. The settlement agreement, which the court has approved, acknowledges the constitutional rights of Hawaiʻi's youth to a life-sustaining climate and confirms the commitment by HDOT to plan and implement transformative changes of Hawaiʻi's transportation system to achieve the state's goal of net-negative emissions by 2045.

"The passion demonstrated by these young people in advocating for a healthy, sustainable future for their generation and those to come, is laudable," said Governor Green. "This settlement informs how we as a state can best move forward to achieve life-sustaining goals and further, we can surely expect to see these and other youth in Hawaiʻi continue to step up to build the type of future they desire."

Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation is the world's first youth-led constitutional climate case seeking to address climate pollution from the transportation sector. Thirteen youth from across the Hawaiian Islands brought the case in June 2022, asserting their rights to a safe and healthy climate and asking the Hawaiʻi state government to take action to meet the climate emergency and enable Hawaiʻi's paradigm shift to a climate-safe, zero-emissions transportation system. Many of the Navahine plaintiffs are Native Hawaiian youth who are already experiencing climate change harms to their well-being and their ability to perpetuate cultural practices.

The settlement of Navahine is also the first settlement agreement of its kind, in which state government entities have decided to work with youth plaintiffs to address concerns regarding constitutional issues arising from climate change, and commit to implementing specific plans and programs designed to decarbonize a state transportation system and reduce greenhouse gas pollution and fossil fuel dependence. In this case, Director of Transportation Ed Sniffen took unprecedented leadership to negotiate a resolution and embrace the government's kuleana (responsibility) to lead the way on bold and broad climate action.

"Climate change is indisputable," said Sniffen. "Burying our heads in the sand and making it the next generation's problem is not pono. In our agreement with Our Children's Trust and Earthjustice we're committing to develop and use greenhouse gas emission measurements and reductions in vehicle miles traveled when we develop ground transportation projects and look for ways to translate that to our Airports and Harbors projects."

All parties to the agreement herald a collaborative path forward. "Today's settlement shows that the state and HDOT are truly committed to transformative action to reduce our transportation emissions before it's too late. This new partnership puts climate action in the fast lane towards a more just and equitable future," said Leinā'ala Ley, an attorney with Earthjustice and co-counsel representing Navahine and her 12 fellow youth plaintiffs.

Of the settlement agreement, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Navahine F., said, "I am so proud of all the hard work to get us to this historic moment. We got what we came for, and we got it faster than we expected. Mai kuhihewa young people have the power to make a difference for their futures," she said.

Plaintiff Rylee Brooke K. added, "Being heard and moving forward in unity with the state to combat climate change is incredibly gratifying, and empowering. This partnership marks a pivotal step towards preserving Hawaiʻi for future generations - one that will have a ripple effect on the world. I hope our case inspires youth to always use their voices to hold leaders accountable for the future they will inherit."

Hawai'i State Environmental Court Judge John Tonaki formally accepted the settlement this morning, which means the trial that was scheduled to begin on Monday will not proceed.

"Our courts are essential guardians of young peoples' constitutional rights and empowered to protect the planet, but they rely on our collective engagement. The thirteen youth Plaintiffs in Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation activated the courts and achieved the first Settlement Agreement in a constitutional climate case, paving the way for systemic decarbonization of transportation. This historic Agreement offers a holistic roadmap for states and countries to follow around the world," said Andrea Rodgers, deputy director for U.S. Strategy at Our Children's Trust and co-counsel for the Navahine plaintiffs.

The agreement sets forth a framework that further confirms Hawaiʻi's position as one of the leading states in the nation in moving from a transportation system that depends on fossil fuels to a cleaner, and safer system that supports a transition to vehicles that run on clean electricity or alternative fuels and gives people more choices to get around by walking, cycling/scootering, and riding public transit. This framework offers an exemplary and replicable model for decarbonizing transportation systems around the U.S., and the world.

The agreement also includes numerous provisions for immediate and ongoing action steps by HDOT. These include, for example:

  • Establishing a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan within one year of the agreement, laying the foundation and roadmap to decarbonize Hawaiʻi's transportation system within the next 20 years.
  • Creating a lead unit and responsible positions within HDOT to coordinate the mission of GHG reduction throughout the agency; oversee climate change mitigation and adaptation for the highways program; and ensure implementation of the Complete Streets policy of building and upgrading public highways for all users, ages, and abilities.
  • Establishing a volunteer youth council to advise on HDOT mitigation and adaptation commitments in the years to come.
  • Improving the state transportation infrastructure budgeting process to prioritize reduction of GHG and vehicles miles traveled (VMT) and transparently analyze and disclose the GHG and VMT impacts of each project and the overall program.
  • Making immediate, ambitious investments in clean transportation infrastructure, including completing the pedestrian, bicycle, and transit networks in five years, and dedicating a minimum of $40 million to expanding the public electric vehicle charging network by 2030.

The parties agreed the court will maintain continuing jurisdiction over their agreement for purposes of resolving any disputes relating to the implementation of the agreement.

Photos from todayʻs event, courtesy Office of the Governor, will be uploaded here; a replay of the news conference is available here.

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Media Contacts:

Erika Engle

Press Secretary

Office of the Governor, State of Hawai'i

Office: 808-586-0120

Email: [email protected]

Russell Pang

Public Information Officer

Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation

Cell: 808-265-5239

Email: [email protected]

Dave Day

Special Assistant to the Attorney General

Department of the Attorney General

Office: 808-586-1284

Email: [email protected]

Toni Schwartz

Public Information Officer Hawai'i Department of the Attorney General Office: 808-586-1252

Email: [email protected]

Helen Britto

Our Children's Trust

Cell: 925-588-1171

Email: [email protected]

Miranda Fox


Cell: 415-283-2324

Email: [email protected]