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UPDATE: Hawai‘i Leaders Weigh In on Trump’s Paris Accord Decision

June 1, 2017, 10:24 AM HST (Updated June 2, 2017, 8:14 AM)
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President Donald Trump’s official portrait from Wikimedia Commons.

President Donald Trump announced at a press conference at 3:35 Eastern Time today that he has decided to withdraw the U.S. rom the Paris climate accord, fulfilling a campaign promise and at the same time, diminishing global efforts to curb global climate change.

The Paris Agreement, signed by 195 nations, undertakes ambitious efforts to combat climate change. The agreement, signed in Paris in December 2015, seeks to limit the rise in Earth’s temperature due to fossil fuel consumption and other actions changing the climate.

Conservatives claim the plan is bad for the United States and detrimental to its economy.

“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but being negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction under terms that are fair to the United States,” Trump said from the White House Rose Garden today. “We’re getting out,” he added. “And we will start to renegotiate and we’ll see if there’s a better deal. If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), co-chair of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, released the following statement on President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“We are appalled and disappointed, but we are not deterred. Entering a formal withdrawal would take nearly four years to complete, which means climate change is on the ballot for every election until we reverse this immoral action.

“The future is with clean energy. The future is with innovation. The future is with climate action. We are not going to allow this short-sighted decision to damage our prospects as a country and as a planet. With private sector momentum behind clean energy, states, cities, and regions are taking action. With international cooperation, we will win this fight, without President Trump’s participation.”

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“President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement is irresponsible, hasty and short-sighted,” said Sen. Mazie K. Hirono. “In Hawai‘i, we understand why it’s important to take care of our land, ocean, and air—our way of life depends on it. Today, it’s more important than ever for states like Hawai‘i to boldly take the lead on clean energy innovation and good stewardship of our ‘āina.”

With President Trump’s decision today to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, the State is prepared to address climate change as it pertains to Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

The Hawaiʻi State Legislature this session passed SB559 SD1 HD2 CD1 which recognizes that climate change poses immediate and long-term threats to the State’s economy, sustainability, security, and way of life, and addresses the impact of climate change, one of the priority issues of the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. J. Kalani English (Dist. 7 – Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, Kaho‘olawe) introduced SB559 which funds the creation of the Hawai‘i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission and provides the state with a guide to planning and statewide implementation using the latest scientific analysis and risk assessment to monitor and forecast climate change impacts at the regional, state and local level.

“The effects of climate change are real, as seen primarily with sea-level rise in the Pacific,” said Sen. English. “The measure adopted relevant sections of the Paris Agreement as state law, which gives us legal basis to continue adaptation and mitigation strategies for Hawai‘i, despite the federal government’s withdrawal from the treaty.”

“The bill was crafted in collaboration with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Academy (TBA21 Academy), which hosted a think tank in the Marquesas Islands, focused on climate change and cultural resiliency,” said Sen. English. “With our way of life here and across the Pacific being left vulnerable to sea level rise and climate change, we simply cannot leave our future in the hands of those who may be misinformed and misguided.”

TBA21 is a globally recognized art institution based in Vienna, Austria. TBA21 announced their commitment to focus on the impact of climate change on the oceans at COP21 in Paris and met with scientists, policy makers, and local leaders at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu in September 2016.

Blue Planet Foundation also sent out a press release stating that organization members are deeply disheartened by President Trump’s decision today to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, “humanity’s best attempt to collectively solve the planet’s climate crisis.”

“Trump’s irresponsible action today imperils our best chance to limit the existential threat of climate change,” said Jeff Mikulina, Blue Planet’s executive director. “Trump’s decision is fundamentally at odds with climate science, at odds with global leadership and at odds with a healthy planet that supports civilization as we know it.”

Hawai‘i is directly in the crosshairs for the most significant effects of climate change: more severe storms, rising sea levels, and hotter temperatures, the Blue Planet Foundation press release stated. The state’s recent experience with a King Tides event, where a combination of factors caused the ocean to flood low-lying parts of the state, is a portent for things to come with increased climate change. Ocean acidification, caused by increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the ocean, has the potential to decimate fisheries and the coral reefs that protect the islands, the release continued.

“It’s tragic that we have a president who does not understand science,” said Henk Rogers, chairman of the Board and Founder of Blue Planet Foundation. “This means that those of us who do will just have to work twice as hard to solve the greatest threat of our generation.”

The U.S. now joins two other nations in bucking the pact: Nicaragua, which argued for a stronger agreement, and Syria, which is fighting a civil war, the release state. The U.S. will no longer have a seat at the negotiating table while the rest of the world forges deals to solve the planet’s greatest crisis, the release said.

“By walking away from humanity’s best hope to govern global carbon emissions, Trump is putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage as other countries embrace clean energy solutions and markets,” said Melissa Miyashiro, Blue Planet Foundation’s chief of staff.

Although the United States is abandoning its pledge in the Paris climate agreement, individual states and cities have the opportunity to act on climate solutions. Hawai‘i has been a vanguard for renewable energy innovation, deployment and policy, adopting the nation’s first 100% renewable energy law in 2015.

“Hawai‘i is uniquely positioned to lead on clean energy solutions the globe so desperately needs,” added Miyashiro. “Our state is already on the map for its bold renewable energy policy and clean energy deployment. While the White House chooses to go one direction, Hawai‘i can choose to go the other direction.”

Blue Planet Foundation, however, lamented the recent inaction by state leadership on new clean energy policy.

During recent Hawai‘i legislative sessions, Blue Planet Foundation advocated for measures to set a target for 100% renewable ground transportation, fix existing loopholes in clean energy law, modernize utility regulation, and increase energy savings in homes and businesses. These and other clean energy bills failed to advance in the past two sessions.

“With Trump’s action today, Hawai‘i’s leaders now shoulder the increased responsibility to adopt aggressive clean energy solutions,” added Mikulina. “We can no longer count on this country’s leadership to provide the solutions that Hawai‘i requires.”

Hawai‘i helped fuel the science behind the historic Paris climate agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the foundation release stated. Since 1957, a small lab atop Mauna Loa has been recording the increasing carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. This dataset is at the heart of scientists’ understanding of fossil fuel’s role in changing the composition of the atmosphere. In April of this year, that lab recorded the highest daily average carbon dioxide concentration—410 parts per million—since well before humans walked the Earth.

The United States has contributed more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than any other country, the foundation said.

“President Trump’s decision today to abandon the Paris agreement is a devastating setback to our global race to rein in carbon emissions. But we’re not abandoning hope,” said Mikulina. “Hawai‘i’s journey to 100% clean energy is now more important than ever.”

President Trump’s decision will prompt a lengthy process that won’t conclude until November 2020, the date of the next presidential election, ensuring the issue becomes a major topic of debate.

Debra Lordan
Debra Lordan has been a writer and website editor for Pacific Media Group since 2014. She has 39-plus years of experience in the publishing industry, serving in a variety of positions—from photographer, graphic designer and communications director to writer, editor and general manager—at scientific research centers, in book publishing, at a weekly newspaper and various magazines. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado.
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