Climate Action

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Program Overview 

R&D Collaborates to achieve local, state, national, and international targets for achieving climate change mitigation and adaptation goals.

Contact

Riley Saito, Deputy Director, Telephone (808) 323-4704 

Michelle Agbigay, Sustainable Development Specialist, Telephone (808) 961-8375

Climate Change Impacts

The 2017 Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report demonstrates that sea level rise will threaten the safety, resources, and infrastructure of coastal community in Hawai‘i County. The Report estimates that Hawai‘i County will lose $430 million due to infrastructure and land loss (not including public facilities), in part because 20% of the areas forecasted to be inundated are urban. Likewise, climate change is forecasted to increase the severity of hurricanes and flooding.

Climate change impacts will affect the most vulnerable ecosystems (forests and marine), key economic sectors (agriculture, fishing and transportation), and populations with some of the highest poverty rates, lowest median income and highest socio-economic needs.

See the Hawai‘i Climate Adaptation Portal for more information about climate change in Hawai‘i. Additional information about climate change and its impacts is available in the Fourth National Climate Assessment and the 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

County of Hawai‘i Climate Action: Greenhouse Gas Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation

Mayor Kim understands and supports the County's state-mandated obligation to transition to 100% renewable power generation and net carbon neutrality by 2045. He has joined the mayors of the other three counties in committing to the Paris Climate Change Agreement and in establishing a goal of 100% renewable transportation by 2045.

Mayor Kim also recognizes the critical need to build resiliency against the adverse effects of climate change like seal level rise, severe storms, drought, rising air and sea temperatures, and other impacts that threaten ecosystems, infrastructure and economic systems.

 Department of Research and Development Climate Action

Mayor Kim asked the Department of Research and Development to coordinate the development and implementation of climate change strategies with other County agencies and external partners. To do that, R&D draws on resources available through local, national, and international sustainability networks as well as the expertise of a growing "Climate and Resilience Team." That team within R&D currently includes the Deputy Director, the County's Energy Specialist, the Department's Sustainable Development Coordinator, an AmeriCorps*VISTA Climate Change Specialist, and Energy Solutions and Transportation Solutions VISTA members.

Specific R&D initiatives related to climate change include:

  • Complete a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory that will be used to establish County GHG targets, develop mitigation strategies, and monitor County GHG emissions over time.
  • Develop and implement a Climate Action Plan aligned with the County's GHG targets.
  • Partner with Hawai‘i Energy to maximize energy efficiency and cost savings in County facilities.
  • Collaborate to advance the electrification of transportation as a member of Drive Electric Hawai‘i and the Sustainable Transportation Coalition of Hawai‘i.
  • Intervene in related dockets of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), like Integrated Grid Planning, Electrification of Transportation, and Performance-Based Ratemaking.
  • Represent the County on the state Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Task Force, which is exploring economic opportunities in carbon markets.

Other County Climate Action

Several other departments are also leading climate change initiatives and are part of the County's "Climate and Resilience Team." To reduce GHG emissions, the Mass Transit Agency is pursuing grant funding to pilot zero emission buses (ZEBs), the Department of Public Works is advancing the adoption of an updated energy code, and the Department of Water Supply has staff and a program devoted to energy conservation, efficiency, and cost reduction.

To advance climate planning, the Planning Department is integrating climate change adaptation strategies into the General Plan, and the Planning Director represents the County on the State Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission. Likewise, the Civil Defense Agency plans to incorporate climate adaptation strategies into the Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. From there, it is likely that climate adaptation measures will be implemented through the flood control, subdivision, and zoning codes as well as the coastal zone management and the capital improvements programs.