USA: First American state declares a climate emergency


On 23 April 2021, Hawaii became the first of the 50 states in the United States of America to declare a climate emergency. In its declaration, the state now requests “statewide collaboration toward an immediate just transition and emergency mobilization effort to restore a safe climate.”

Maui County Council member Kelly Takaya King gave the following testimony:

“In 2019, the Maui County Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 19-209 Acknowledging a Climate Emergency and Committing to an Immediate Just Transition and Emergency Mobilization Effort to Restore a Safe Climate.

In addition to the reasons our County Council identified recognizing the dire need for an immediate just transition and emergency mobilization effort to restore a safe climate, I support this measure in my capacity as an individual member of the Maui County Council for the following reasons:

1. Declaring a climate emergency will make climate mitigation and resilience planning and coordination a top priority among government organizations at a statewide level, and will prioritize the appropriate financial and regulatory assistance needed.

2. Combating global warming requires collective action on many fronts. We need a statewide action plan as in SCR44 for the climate mitigation and adaptation efforts it will take to meaningfully address the climate crisis.

3. We are in the midst of a climate crisis and need a declaration of climate emergency so that the necessary statewide resources can be focused and mobilized.

4. Hawai’i is ground zero for change in climate, from sea level rise to shifting weather patterns. SCR44 moves us in the right direction by identifying the urgency of the issue and the need for a response that matches the speed and scale of climate change.

For the foregoing reasons, I strongly support this measure:”



S.C.R. NO. 44 – S.D. 1



WHEREAS, global warming has now raised the average global air temperature about one degree Celsius, and scientists have documented that this extra heat is already having a dramatic impact on the environment, as demonstrated through larger and stronger hurricanes, increased drought and flooding, shifting rain patterns, more and larger wildfires, a hotter and more acidic ocean, and damaged ecosystems, both marine and terrestrial, across the planet; and

WHEREAS, in April 2016, world leaders recognized the urgent need to combat climate change by signing the Paris Agreement, agreeing to keep global warming “well below 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels” and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)”; and

WHEREAS, in 2017, over fifteen thousand scientists published a “Warning to Humanity”, declaring that greenhouse gases produced from human activities have “pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point”; and

WHEREAS, 13,784 scientists from one hundred fifty-six countries have signed a declaration, unequivocally affirming that “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency” and it will now take “an immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere” to avoid untold suffering; and

WHEREAS, in the absence of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reports indicate that warming is likely to accelerate in the next decade and reach 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 – ten years earlier than projected by the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and two degrees Celsius by 2045; and

WHEREAS, based upon the scientific information and expertise available, Hawaii remains particularly vulnerable to the dangers of disaster occurrences as a result of the effects of global warming, thereby endangering the health, safety, and welfare of the people, warranting preemptive and protective action; and

WHEREAS, the Hawaii State Constitution adopts the public trust doctrine for the benefit of the people and the right of each person to a clean and healthful environment; and

WHEREAS, as of January 26, 2021, 1,864 jurisdictions in thirty-three countries have already declared a climate emergency; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2021, the House of Representatives concurring, that this body acknowledges that an existential climate emergency threatens humanity and the natural world, declares a climate emergency, and requests statewide collaboration toward an immediate just transition and emergency mobilization effort to restore a safe climate; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that entities statewide are requested to pursue these climate mitigation and adaptation efforts and mobilize at the necessary scale and speed:

(1) A statewide commitment to a just transition toward a decarbonized economy that invests in and ensures clean energy, quality jobs, and a statewide commitment to a climate emergency mobilization effort to reverse the climate crisis, which, with appropriate financial and regulatory assistance from state authorities, will transform the economy at emergency speed to zero emissions and meet the emission targets as set forth by the IPCC report to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius;

(2) A prohibition against any further public or private investment or subsidies in projects that will make the climate emergency worse, such as coal, oil, gas, and tree-burning projects, and redirecting and channeling subsidies toward low climate impact energy projects and workforce retraining;

(3) Facilitation of investments in beneficial projects and infrastructure such as zero emissions energy; electric vehicles, including clean fleet transitions for the State and counties; energy efficiency; reforestation; afforestation; climate-smart agriculture; and climate-friendly land use; and

(4) Organization and tracking of a time-phased implementation plan that assigns state government agencies’ responsibilities and timetables; establishment of task dependencies between departments with a priority to plan and coordinate, at a statewide level, all climate and resilience responses, including emergency mitigation of climate change effects, resilience, adaptation, engagement, education, advocacy, and research and development programs, all of which begin with a robust climate emergency public education and stakeholder outreach process; and requirements of all departmental reports that utilize a lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis to include a climate impacts section, which will provide meaningful information on how proposed actions will impact greenhouse gas reduction efforts; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that public and private entities are urged to commit to statewide action that is rooted in equity, self-determination, culture, tradition, and the belief that people locally and around the world have the right to clean, healthy, and adequate air, water, land, food, education, and shelter; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that nothing in this measure constitutes a declaration of an emergency for purposes of any act authorizing the exercise of any special or extraordinary power during the period of a state emergency or other type of declared emergency; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the Governor; Attorney General; Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources; Director of the Office of Planning; and mayors of the City and County of Honolulu and counties of Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui.


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“Hawaii was the first state to pass a 100-percent clean, renewable energy goal,” Mike Gabbard said at a press conference. “Since then, 16 states have followed our lead. So hopefully other states will get on board.”

→ Grist – 30 April 2021:
‘Climate emergency’: Hawaii is the first state to call it like it is
“The 50th state is making history.”




“Fifty-two percent of respondents said they believe “we are under a climate emergency,” while 48 percent said they did not believe there is a climate emergency. The poll showed a stark partisan divide over the issue, with 70 percent of Republicans saying they did not believe there was a climate emergency and 74 percent of Democrats saying the opposite. The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey of 1,872 registered voters was conducted from April 27-29. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll.” 

→ The Hill – 3 May 2021:
American poll: 52 percent say there is a climate emergency