LIHUE — Stories of Kauai are turning heads at the United Nations Climate Conference as delegations from around the world meet to chat climate change in Bonn, Germany.
It’s the island’s strides in clean energy, partnered with the progress from the rest of the state, that’s catching attention.
“We’re a global leader now (in clean energy) and we’re showing it’s driving down energy costs and attracting outside capital,” said Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, at a teleconference on Friday.
Schatz is part of a five-person legislative delegation in Germany representing the American people at the UN Climate Conference, which focuses on greenhouse gas emissions and other factors in global climate change.
Delegates are also tackling the question of how to promote economic development in a sustainable way.
Friday, five U.S. senators met with delegations from India and Japan, and Schatz said Hawaii’s strides in sustainability were part of the talks with the Japanese delegation specifically.
“Hawaii demonstrates you can have a thriving economy and exceed even with the most audacious clean energy bills,” Schatz said. “It’s a good story to tell for countries that are wondering whether they can pull it off, and I assure them, they can,” Schatz said.
The state created the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, which works toward decreasing dependence on oil by setting the goal to achieve 100 percent clean energy in 2045.
On the Garden Island, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has set the goal of using renewable resources to generate 70 percent of the island’s power by 2030.
More than 40 percent of electricity generated on Kauai comes from renewable resources, according to KIUC. That’s up from 2009, when 5 percent of the island’s electricity came from renewable resources.
Solar is a big contributor to power generation on the island, and on sunny days KIUC says around 90 percent of daytime energy needs are met by solar.
In March, KIUC, SolarCity and Tesla unveiled a 52-megawatt-hour solar farm on Kauai that reduced the amount of oil-based power to meet peak demand during nighttime and early morning hours at a rate of 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass) joined Schatz in the delegation that met to talk about fighting global climate change to the benefit of America’s economy, health and natural security.
“We’re here to remind the world that we are on track to meet the Paris goal (Paris Climate Agreement), and the effort is creating a lot of jobs,” Markey said, citing a 25-percent increase in American solar jobs and 32-percent increase in American wind jobs.
Reiterating commitment to curbing climate change was also part of the delegation’s mission, according to Cardin.
He said it’s important to show American commitment to the cause in light of President Donald Trump’s step back from the 2015 Paris agreement and his 2017 announcement of intention to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement.
“We have to act together as humankind, as a community of nations,” Cardin said. “The world may not have confidence in Trump, but it can have confidence in America. We are still on track for Paris.”
The 2015 Paris Climate Accord’s goal is to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial recorded levels worldwide.
Each of the 195 countries that have signed the agreement and 169 that have become party to it plans and reports its contributions to mitigating global warming.
Though Trump announced intentions to abandon the agreement, under the agreement the earliest date for withdrawal is 2020.
“The president of the United States is a powerful person, but he can’t stop us from moving forward on clean energy,” Schatz said. “American leaders are still committed to clean energy.”
The 2017 UN Climate Change Conference is happening through Nov. 17 at the World Conference Center in Bonn, Germany, and the focus is what needs to be done worldwide to meet the goals of the Paris Accord.