A group of 13 Hawaiian youths won a $40 million settlement against the state after accusing the Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) of violating their rights by not doing enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Politico reported Friday.

In a legal settlement resolving the landmark case brought against the DOT for prioritizing highway development over public transit and vehicle electrification, the state agreed to develop a plan to fully decarbonize travel – including ground, sea and interisland air travel – by 2045, according to a copy of the Navahine v. Hawai’i Department of Transportation agreement. The DOT also agreed to complete a pedestrian, bicycle and transit network in the next five years, and to allocate a minimum of $40 million to “rapidly accelerate the expansion of the public EV charging network” between now and 2030, according to Politico.


Hawaiian lawmakers rushed to praise the plaintiffs following the first-of-its-kind settlement .

“You have a constitutional right to fight for life-sustaining climate policy, and you have mobilized our people,” Hawaii Democratic Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, said in an announcement. “You’re the first in the country to succeed, and I hope others will follow your lead.”

State senator and former high school teacher Mike Gabbard echoed the governor’s sentiment, describing himself as “stoked” that the youths sued the state.

“They’re leading the way instead of sitting back and complaining,” Gabbard told reporters in an interview this week.

Had it not been settled, the case would have been just the second U.S. youth climate trial ever. The first being a 2023 Montana case in which a group of young plaintiffs connected to public-interest law firm Our Children’s Trust secured a ruling that struck down two state laws barring agencies from considering the climate effects of fossil fuel projects, according to Scientific American.

In 2021, Hawaii became the first to declare a climate state of emergency, and, in 2018, passed two state House bills that vowed to make the state carbon neutral by 2045.

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