14 young people filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT); HDOT Director Jade Butay; Governor David Ige; and the State of Hawaiʻi.
In Navahine F. v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation, the youth plaintiffs claim that their state DOT’s active operation of a transportation system that results in high levels of greenhouse gas emissions is causing significant harm to their communities, violates their constitutional rights, and undermines their ability to “live healthful lives in Hawaiʻi now and into the future.”
Hawaiʻi’s state constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment includes the right to a life-sustaining climate system. The youth plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaration that HDOT is violating this right and the state’s public trust doctrine to “conserve and protect Hawaiʻi’s natural beauty and all natural resources.”
Compared to people born in 1960, children born in 2020 are expected to face a two to seven-fold increase in extreme climate events such as heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, droughts, and floods. Hawaiʻi’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions remain higher than 85% of the countries on Earth. Emissions from Hawaiʻi’s transportation sector are increasing and expected to comprise nearly 60% of Hawaiʻi’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The youth plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaration of law that the state’s transportation system, and its resulting greenhouse gas pollution and climate harms, violates the state’s constitutional public trust doctrine and infringes upon the youth plaintiffs’ constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.
The youth plaintiffs in this lawsuit are between the ages of 9–18 and from the islands of Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Maui, and Kauaʻi. Counsel for the youth plaintiffs include Isaac Moriwake and Leināʻala L. Ley of Earthjustice and Andrea Rodgers and Kimberly Willis of Our Children’s Trust.