Honolulu to file suit against the fossil fuel industry

The City & County of Honolulu announced their intent to file suit against the fossil fuel industry for deceiving people about the known dangers of climate change and the resulting costs on Oʻahu’s taxpayers. Honolulu joins Maui County and dozens of other counties, municipalities, and states across the US that have filed similar climate liability lawsuits.

Since the 1960s, the fossil fuel industry knew that their products—oil, gas and coal—would cause detrimental impacts to the world’s climate. Instead of acting for the greater good, the industry doubled down on production and spent millions on alternative science and misinformation campaigns, wasting valuable time to transition to clean energy and worsening the climate crisis.

In response to Mayor Caldwell’s announcement, the Sierra Club Oʻahu Group has released this statement:

“Decades of deceit by the fossil fuel industry bolstered their mammoth profits, and now the climate crisis has global citizens fighting against our own extinction,” said Hunter Heaivilin, Chair of the Sierra Club Oʻahu Group. “Our island already feels the brunt of climate-related impacts,  from shrinking beaches to a marathon of record heat days. Sadly, we will all be paying for climate change for decades to come. It is only fair that those corporations that lied about it be made to pay their share, as well.”


The Honolulu City Council Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee will hear the mayor’s resolution to file proactive litigation and to obtain outside counsel to represent the county in related legal matters. After committee approval, the resolution is heard and voted on in full council. Once outside counsel is approved, the litigation is filed. 

  • The Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee will hear the mayor’s resolution on Tuesday, November 12 at 1pm
    • Turn out to the committee meeting show your support and bring your friends
      • The full City Council will hear the resolution immediately after the committee meeting
    • Submit written testimony in support online here
      • Council/PH Committee: Executive Matters and Legal Affairs
      • Agenda item: Reso 19-283
      • Your position on the matter: Support
      • Representing: Self
      • Sample testimony:

        “Aloha Chair Menor and members of the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee,

        I am writing to you today in support of Resolution 19-283, to file proactive litigation against the fossil fuel industry to recover climate crisis-related costs.

        The fossil fuel industry knew their products would lead to the climate crisis and they chose to lie to shareholders, lawmakers, and the people about the dangers their products would cause. Because of their deception and inaction, Oʻahu now faces billions of dollars in adaptation and loss of critical land and infrastructure. Oʻahu’s government and taxpayers should not be left to pay for climate-related damages alone. 

        I support the City hiring expert attorneys that know all the details about this area of law and will only be paid if they win the lawsuit on our collective behalf.  

        Filing this lawsuit is the next reasonable step to take, given all that we know about what this industry has done to our climate. Holding the fossil fuel industry responsible will help offset the costs to Oʻahu’s people. 

        Thank for the opportunity to testify on this important matter. 

  • Sign this petition urging Hawaiʻi and Kauaʻi Counties and the State Attorney General to also file lawsuits

Why this litigation is important:
Hawaiʻi’s communities already know the impacts of the climate crisis well—worsened brush fires, coastal erosion, unprecedented flooding, and increasingly dangerous hurricane activity. These impacts threaten our livelihoods: fires threaten to destroy residential areas that could drive up the cost of housing, erosion could mean loss of access to coastal communities accessible by only one road, extreme floods drive out families and increase insurance costs for everyone.

Everyone feels the impacts of the climate crisis just as everyone shares this earth. However, the fossil fuel industry does not care about everyone. They care about their profits. They knew in the 60s, with striking accuracy, that their products would cause the climate crisis we are in today—but they chose to act for themselves. They spent millions to fund misinformation campaigns, “alternative science”, and prevent climate policies that would hurt their business. 

How this litigation helps Hawaiʻi’s communities: 
Hawaiʻi’s communities face $19 billion in lost private infrastructure and land, and that is from just three feet of sea level rise. This cost does not take into account the loss of public infrastructure and lands or other climate change impacts. Hawaiʻi’s residents alone should not have to pay for the billions of dollars of adaptation it will take to keep the islands livable. The fossil fuel industry is responsible for the majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change and they should be the ones to pay. The industry created this problem and they should help the frontline communities that are facing the worst of the climate crisis. Just like the lawsuits against the tobacco industry redirected corporate profits to help communities that have long borne the costs of smoking related illnesses, it is time to hold the fossil fuel companies accountable.