Hawai‘i has become the first state to declare a climate emergency, joining 1,864 jurisdictions in 33 countries which have already done so.
The Hawai‘i Resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 44, requests statewide collaboration toward an immediate emergency mobilization effort and just transition to restore a safe climate.
The resolution outlines the impacts and empirical evidence of the climate crisis and what must be done to restore a more-livable planet. It warns, 13,784 scientists from 156 countries have signed a declaration, unequivocally affirming that ‘“planet Earth is facing a climate emergency” and it will now take “an immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere to avoid untold suffering,” and emphasizes the impacts it will have on Hawai‘i.
The resolution encourages all state entities to 1) decarbonize the economy with clean energy and quality jobs with the financial and regulatory assistance; and 2) invest in electric vehicles, energy efficiency, reforestation, climate-smart agriculture and land use at the necessary scale and speed.
The resolution was passed almost unanimously, approved by all four Kaua‘i legislators.
State Rep. Nadine Nakamura, who represents the North Shore and Eastside, said,”We should all do our part to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, promote green jobs as we diversify our economy, promote smart growth, convert our fleet to electric vehicles and reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on our roads.”
She also supported Senate Bill 932, which establishes the Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund for clean-energy investments, and House Bill 552, requiring the state Department of Transportation to achieve 100% light-duty, motor-vehicle, zero-emission fleet by 2035, as reported earlier in The Garden Island.
State Rep. Dee Morikawa, who represents Ni‘ihau, the Westside and portions of the South Shore, said, “Our state, nation, and the entire world are facing many critical issues, but none more important to the future of our island home and families than reversing the escalating climate crisis.
“The Legislature this session passed SCR 44 to declare a climate emergency and build a statewide collaboration toward immediate efforts to restore a safe climate. We need everyone from the state and county levels, to businesses, organizations and individuals, working together to change the way we use energy and pollute our planet.”
There was no response from state Senate Persident Ron Kouchi, who represents all of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, nor state Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, who represents the Lihu‘e area and portions of the Eastside and South Shore.
Unfortunately, other actions taken by the Legislature this session do not show that our legislators understand the steps needed to help avert this emergency.
Few bills were passed that addressed the pathway to eliminate our use of fossil fuels, support the electrification of our transportation system, decrease visitor flights, make state buildings more efficient and sequester carbon with land-use practices. Of those bills that did pass, none were at the scale and speed necessary to truly tackle the climate crisis.
Here are some of the bills that did pass (but still require Gov. David Ige’s signature) to help address the climate emergency:
• 100% of state vehicles electric by 2031 (cars) 2036 (trucks);
• State rental fleet preference for electric vehicles;
• Electric-vehicle charging stations for new facilities, with county enforcement;
• Low-interest loans for purchase of energy-efficient measures;
• State Department of Land and Natural Resources nurseries to grow green infrastructure;
• Property sellers’ disclosure for sea-level rise;
• State agencies to purchase more food from local farmers, and public schools to purchase at least 30% locally by 2030;
• Remove cap on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps)purchases of local produce;
• More trees on school campuses;
• Cuts to Hawai‘i Tourism Authority budget.
We need bolder, braver and more-binding legislation if we are to meet Hawai‘i’s net zero goal. We know we need to keep fossil fuel in the ground. Solar and other clean alternatives have accelerated so quickly over the last few years, making this possible.
We need to electrify our transportation system, another realistic goal at present for ground transportation. Thirdly, we need to drawdown, sequester carbon with better land-use practices, such as regenerative local agriculture, planting trees and plants, composting, and hundred of other measures.
Hawai‘i Island and Maui counties declared their own climate emergencies in 2019, but Kaua‘i has yet to do so. Maui has a special committee on climate change that last month introduced a moratorium, that is being debated, on new visitor accommodations for West and South Maui. The purposes of the moratorium are to lower carbon-emissions levels, mitigate climate-change impacts and limit the rate of global warming by pausing visitor-accommodation development and the related increase in tourism. The pause would prevent additional air, noise, light, land and water pollution until the county updates the West Maui and South Maui community plans. There has been strong community support for the moratorium.
A recent presentation by climate expert and University of Hawai‘i-Manoa Professor of Earth Sciences Dr. Chip Fletcher is an up-to-date and sobering look at the current and future impacts of climate change. You can view it at youtube.com/watch?v=GNayVagJhUo.
When asked what individuals can do to help in this climate crisis, Fletcher’s immediate response was to get informed and vote. We need legislative action and leaders who are knowledgeable in the root causes of the climate crisis and willing to take bold action.
The Kaua‘i Climate Action Coalition meets the third Monday of every month at 5 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom link or for more information. Members are encouraging others to be part of the conversation and the solution.