Keiki o ka ‘āina (children of the land) in Hawai‘i turned to the courts to assert their rights to a safe and healthy climate and ask their government to embrace its kuleana (responsibility) as a trustee for future generations by decarbonizing Hawai‘i’s transportation system.

On June 1, 2022, 13 young people from Hawai’i filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against their state government and the Hawai’i Department of Transportation (HDOT).

They asserted HDOT’S operation of a transportation system resulting in high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions violates their state constitutional rights, impacting their ability to “live healthful lives in Hawaiʻi now and into the future.”

Children of Hawai’i are on the front lines.

It is a current crisis, and the children of Hawai’i are living on the front lines of climate disasters like sea level rise, wildfires, coral bleaching, biodiversity loss, and catastrophic storms. Roads and sacred ancestral burial grounds have been swept into the sea. People in Hawai’i have witnessed coral reefs die, beaches erode, and traditional practices like cultivating lo’i kalo (taro fields) and loko i’a (fishponds) threatened or lost.

The youth plaintiffs turned to the courts to assert their rights to a future in which they can live safe, healthy lives.

They asked their government to embrace its kuleana (responsibility) as a trustee for future generations by meeting the state legislature’s goal to decarbonize Hawai’i’s economy and achieve a zero emissions transportation sector by 2045. Hawai’i’s leadership heard youth voices, and responded, backed by the judiciary.

June 20, 2024, in a joint press conference with Governor Green and Hawai’i Department of Transportation Director Edwin Sniffen, youth plaintiffs and their attorneys announced the first constitutional climate settlement of its kind in the world.




The Settlement Agreement in Navahine v. HDOT confirms that youth have constitutional rights to a clean and healthful environment and that the state of Hawaiʻi has an obligation to protect youth’s interest in a stable climate.

Filing Date



John M. Tonaki


Honolulu, HI











Years in the making



Transportation sector is largest source of GHG emissions in United States


Hawai'i is the most dependent state in US on petroleum for energy needs


pages exchanged in the form of filings and expert reports distilling decades of scientific research into understandable content


children under age 18 in Hawai‘i affected by HDOT’s actions, plus the generations yet to come

what’s next?

Support our youth climate leaders making history in our courts. Learn how we will power youth voices carrying the values of Mālama ‘Āina. Kia’i ‘Āina. Aloha ‘Āina. (Care for the land. Defend the land. Love the land.) across the country and world.

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