WASHINGTON D.C. — Congress is following in Hawai‘i’s footsteps in setting sustainability goals for the future, much like Governor David Ige’s Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative does for the island state.
Tuesday, Senator Mazie Hirono, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, joined Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and 31 of their colleagues to introduce the Clean Economy Act, legislation that requires the United States to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050.
In her announcement of the Clean Economy Act, Hirono pointed to the Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative, which aims for a complete transfer to clean, renewable energy by 2045.
That initiative also includes goals to increase local food production, strengthen the state’s invasive species policy, prioritize watershed protection and better manage nearshore marine areas.
“The devastating consequences of climate change in Hawai‘i are clear, and that is why we were the first state in the country to commit to achieving a carbon neutral economy by 2045, which includes 100% renewable power,” Hirono said Thursday. “The Clean Economy Act spurs similar bold action across the country by setting a goal of achieving net-zero U.S. greenhouse gas production by 2050.”
The bill also requires a focus on public health, innovative and equitable access to worker training, and enhancing America’s global competitiveness, all of which will be essential to address the broad impacts of climate change.
The United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with other leading climate scientists, warn of the catastrophic consequences if global temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Recent reports from the UN warn that global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to date has not been sufficient to keep global temperatures below that threshold.
The Clean Economy Act responds to these concerns by directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find a path for America to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with minimal cost while maintaining public health and workforce training as priorities.
The bill requires the EPA and other agencies to use existing tools to meet this standard in partnership with state, local, and private climate plans, and requires benchmarks for climate targets in 2025, 2030, and 2040. Other federal agencies are also required to work with the EPA to meet this standard.
Hawai‘i state director for The Trust for Public Lands, Lea Hong said the Clean Economy Act would create healthier and more equitable communities, while growing competitiveness and thus, strengthening communities.
“Its goals are consistent with the State of Hawai‘i’s own sustainability goals for clean energy transformation in the Aloha+ challenge, and I thank Senator Hirono for her leadership in moving the country quickly toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” Hong said.
The Sierra Club of Hawaii also applauded the Clean Economy Act, hailing it as an important means to address the climate crisis.
“Clean energy innovation in Hawaii has demonstrated that the goals of the Clean Economy Act are achievable and will improve the economy and the environment,” Colin Yost, Volunteer Chair of the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i said.