Climate Action Plan stalls

LIHUE — When some Kauai County Councilmembers voted against funding to develop a Climate Action Plan, it was because they did know what it hoped to accomplish.

“Nobody here said they don’t support climate change (efforts). What I’ve heard, concerns were based upon deliverables and if we were doing our due diligence,” said Councilman Derek Kawakami.

On Wednesday, Kawakami led an Economic Development and Environmental Relations Committee meeting about Kauai’s CAP, which is a 20-year guide to transform county operations that delivers sustainability and resilience.

The goal is to achieve 80 percent reduction of carbon emission by 2023, as compared to 2007 levels.

On Wednesday, the committee was set to hear a request from the Office of Economic Development to apply for funds from the Hawaii Community Foundation and Partners for Places, for $100,000 to make a plan for climate change.

But the deadline passed Monday, so they did not need to make a decision on the request.

Instead, councilmembers took public comment and heard from George Costa, director of the OED, and Ben Sullivan, energy and sustainability manager for OED, about what they intend to do moving forward.

Last week, the council voted 4 to 3 to refer their request to committee, not knowing the deadline was Monday.

Councilmembers Mel Rapozo, council chair, Arryl Kaneshiro, Arthur Brun and Ross Kagawa voted against the request. Councilmembers Mason Chock, JoAnn Yukimura and Derek Kawakami voted in favor of it.

Costa said he was hesitant to tell the council of the deadline because some of them have expressed displeasure in the past about needing to approve something last minute.

”But there are going to be some opportunities that come up in the last minute. And by that, I mean within 30 days,” he said.

During public comment, John Harder said it’s time to take local action against climate change.

“Reducing greenhouse gas is essential in preserving this planet for our children,” he said.

Carl Berg, a local ecologist, said the CAP is about 25 years too late.

“Climate change — the effects are already in place. We’ve already gotten temperature change and sea level rise,” he said. “I want to stress, that as a county, that we should support a massive plan update on how we’re going to address this, and we need to act on it very quickly.”

Kagawa said if the council had known of the deadline, the request would have been approved.

“That’s where I guess the administration needs to do a better job at communicating with the legislative side,” he said. “So why are we here talking about what we missed? We need to do a better job at listening and communicating.”

But other councilmembers said knowing the deadline would not have changed their vote.

“Last week, I simply asked ‘what is the Climate Action Plan?’ and I didn’t get a response. I asked ‘what are some tangibles or deliverables that will be a part of this plan’” and we didn’t get a response,” Kaneshiro said. “We need to get the answers. It’s very hard to make a decision when I can’t even get an answer on what a Climate Action Plan is.”

Rapozo agreed

“We, as this body, have the fiduciary duty to make sure this county acts appropriately with resources,” he said. “How can we accept money of that magnitude if we don’t know if we have the resources to properly execute the grant?”

The OED has another opportunity to get the Hawaii Community Foundation and Partners for Places funds in January.


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