Environmental groups spent Earth Day lamenting the demise of dozens of climate-related bills that state lawmakers quietly killed this session, which ends May 2.

“Hawaii turned down the opportunity to take even small steps,” said Maggie Odom, a 16-year-old climate activist who joined the coalition’s press conference Monday in Honolulu.

She’s the outreach coordinator for the Hawaii chapter of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, which counted about 400 Hawaii students in the global March event. The group’s next strike is May 3.

David Mulinix holds shovel fronting ‘tombstones’ of dead bills, laid out on the corner of Richards St/Beretania at the Capitol before protestors arrive.
David Mulinix holds a shovel fronting tombstones of dead bills, laid out on the corner of the Capitol lawn before protesters arrived Monday to sound the alarm on climate change. 

“I’m more than disappointed; I’m angry,” Odom said. “We wasted an entire year.”

Underscoring an international scientific consensus that gives the world about 11 years to turn things around, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation and several other groups banded together to demand an “emergency-level response” from government.

By their count, at least 74 measures died this session, which opened in January. They would have addressed everything from sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions to single-use plastics, solar power and electric vehicles.

The organizers laid out tombstones on the lawn outside the Capitol representing some of the dead bills, including: SB571, HB855SB690, HB1090, SB1338, SB700, HB1370, SB259 and SB1289.

Demonstrators sort thru some signs before the speakers on lawn of the Capitol. According to demonstrators, over 70 climate related bills died.
Demonstrators sort through signs before a press conference on climate change. They estimate over 70 climate-related bills died this session. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

About 20 participants carried signs with messages like “There is no Planet B” and “Change the system, change the planet.” Another read, “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your coal.”

The environmental groups’ leaders acknowledged some of the lawmakers who at least introduced the measures and supported them, such as Democratic Sen. Karl Rhoads and Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen.

They also acknowledged how last week a group of political leaders declared their commitment to sustainability for Hawaii. Gov. David Ige, House Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate President Ron Kouchi, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, all four county mayors and representatives from the United Nations signed the two-page document called “Global Goals, Local Action.”

But ultimately, the environmental groups’ organizers said a gathering of leaders is not enough. What’s needed, many said, is legislation with teeth in it.

“Our bills are dying without being heard,” said Dave Raney of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter. “It’s a dagger without fingerprints.”

Stuart Coleman of Surfrider Foundation’s Oahu chapter said the groups plan to double down on their efforts next year. He and others made it clear to elected officials that they either need to get serious about fighting climate change and its myriad effects or risk getting voted out.

“Come with us and join our progress or we’re going to have to move you out,” he said.

Read Civil Beat’s ongoing coverage of climate change as part of its Hawaii 2040 special project here.

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