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Young CCLers take the lead in Hawaii

CCL Hawaii youths gather during a break at the Climate Future Forum

CCL Hawaii youths gather during a break at the Climate Future Forum.

Young CCLers take the lead in Hawaii

By Katie Zakrzewski

Young CCLers in Hawaii have been working hard for several months to make their voices heard by local and federal legislators. From publishing letters to the editor and op-eds in local papers to hosting members of Congress at their school, members of CCL Hawaii’s Youth Action Team have been knocking it out of the ballpark. 

Bringing Congress to Hawaiian schools 

It all started in September 2022 when the Youth Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) Club at Iolani School in Honolulu, HI, invited their member of Congress, Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-01), and several members of his staff to speak at their school. While there, Rep. Case emphasized the importance of students being engaged in their democracy. 

Hawaii Representative Ed Case stands with CCL Hawaii Youths after visiting their high school to talk about climate

Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-01) meets with youth CCLers in Hawaii.

One of the student climate advocates wrote this article below for the student newspaper about the visit, about how carbon cashback will reduce emissions, and about the Hawaii Future Climate Forum on Dec. 3. 

An article summarizing Rep. Case’s visit was published in the Iolani School newspaper, "Imua"

An article summarizing Rep. Case’s visit was published in the Iolani School newspaper, “Imua.”

This work was so noteworthy that CCL’s National Youth Action Team took notice and asked the Hawaii youth for a presentation about their efforts.

The Hawaii Climate Future Forum

This event dovetailed with the creation of the Hawaii Climate Future Forum, which took place at the Hawaii State Capital on Dec. 3, 2022. Hawaii State Coordinator and Youth Team Mentor Paul Bernstein explained the significance of this event and CCL’s role. 

“That event was created for youth to engage with our local legislators. There were eight or nine legislators at this event, with 70 or 80 youth and 20 to 25 individuals in the community representing nonprofits,” Paul said. “There was an EnROADS presentation and a few five-minute talks from legislators, but one of the most pivotal parts — and where CCL came in — was a workshop about carbon pricing.”

To promote the Climate Future Forum, the Hawaii Youth team took to the airwaves. Several students appeared on a local program called Code Green, where they shared their concerns about climate change’s impact on their futures and some of the actions they were taking to mitigate climate effects. Students also made their voices heard on a broadcast of Hawaii Public Radio, where they talked about the upcoming Hawaii Climate Future Forum and their preferred solution — a carbon price.

Students from all over the state attended the Climate Future Forum and presented their legislative priorities as concerned citizens in the form of breakout sessions. Students from the carbon pricing workshop, six of whom were part of CCL Hawaii’s Youth Action Team, presented the importance and feasibility of a carbon fee and dividend to all the attendees, which included members of the Hawaii State Legislature. 

2023 legislative priorities outlined by the Hawaii Youth Climate Future Forum held on December 3, 2022

A graphic summarizing students’ legislative priorities at the Climate Future Forum.

Hawaii youth take to the media

Hawaii youths have also taken their voices to print media, where they have been writing about their climate stories, wildfires, taking care of the earth in relation to native Hawaiian ancestry beliefs, and carbon pricing. 

Hawaii CCL published 79 pieces of media in 2022. Hawaii youths helped bolster these numbers by publishing letters to the editor and op-eds, appearing in articles and radio across the state and giving presentations to legislators and nonprofit organizations. They’ve already appeared in the media a few times this year too.  

CCL Hawaii had 79 media appearances for 2022 alone, of which Hawaii’s youths contributed

CCL Hawaii had 79 media appearances for 2022 alone, of which Hawaii’s youths contributed.

Hawaii youth lobby for a carbon price

Students have also worked alongside a group called the Carbon Cashback Task Force to lobby with local representatives and introduce carbon pricing during legislative sessions. With the recent introduction of a carbon cashback bill in Hawaii’s state legislature, Paul said all hands are on deck.

“We’re pushing for this bill to make it through the legislature and onto the governor’s desk. Students will be involved in asking committee chairs to hear the bill and hopefully testifying written or orally, so it’s going back to the beginning idea about getting involved in your democracy,” Paul said. “Now that we’ve got a bill introduced, we’re following it through the legislative process and doing what we can as citizen activists.”

Paul finds even more room to grow and engage youths now that CCL’s policy platform has been expanded. He hopes to push forward on new policy topics in the future and host another Hawaii Climate Future Forum.

“CCL has expanded policy, and we can push forward on those topics and hope to have a Climate Future Forum again.”

Paul says that all credit and gratitude are owed to CCL Hawaii’s youth.

“None of this happens if you don’t have youth that are motivated and take the initiative. This hasn’t been adults pulling them along. The youths have led this,” Paul said.

One thing is for certain: the hard work of CCL’s Hawaii Youth Action Team today is paving the way for a better tomorrow.

Katie Zakrzewski, CCL Communications Coordinator, is an avid reader, writer and policy wonk. With published pieces, as well as podcast and radio appearances spanning the country, Zakrzewski looks forward to using her talents to create a healthier planet of tomorrow.