In a show of support for the Paris climate agreement, Gov. David Ige and Hawaii's county mayors and representatives gathered for the signing of two bills and a mayors' agreement that support the commitments and goals of the Paris climate accord.
Hawaii is the first state in the nation to enact legislation that implements portions of the Paris agreement.
Gov. Ige signed SB 559 (Act 32) which expands strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide in alignment with the principles and goals adopted in the Paris agreement.
The governor also signed HB 1578 (Act 033) which establishes the Carbon Farming Task Force within the Office of Planning to identify agricultural and aquacultural practices to improve soil health and promote carbon sequestration – the capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide to mitigate climate change.
"We are setting a course to change the trajectory for Hawaii and islanders for generations to come," Ige said.
"In order for Hawaii to be an active participant in going green and looking at alternative energies, we want to be the first, and we want to be the trendsetter for the world," said Hawaii County managing director Wil Okabe.
In addition, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and representatives for Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, and Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho signed a statement declaring their commitment to continue supporting of the Paris agreement.
After traveling around the world on Hokulea and seeing the effects of climate change, master navigator Nainoa Thompson says these laws are a step in the right direction.
"That movement is the greatest kindest movement ever by humanity, and that is the light, but we need places to shine the light strongly," said Thompson. "We need places of hope. We need places that the rest of the world can turn to and understand real success that's happened today."
The first law expands strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while the second creates a task force to identify best practices.
So where are most of the emissions coming from?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Hawaii ranks 45 out of 56 states and territories when it comes to total release of chemicals per square mile.
The EPA has what's called a Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) that tracks the management of all kinds of chemical releases. However, only certain industrial facilities are required to submit these annual reports.
Of those required to report to the EPA, here are the top five facilities that release chemicals:
- Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
- Hawaiian Electric's Kahe station
- Chevron refinery
- Hawaiian Electric's Waiau station
- AES Hawaii
Hawaiian Electric issued the following statement:
"Hawaiian Electric is committed to adding renewables to our portfolio, which will help reduce emissions over time. We are on pace to have 100 percent of our energy coming from renewable resources by the end of 2040, five years ahead of the 2045 deadline established by the state. Between 2003 and 2015, our TRI emissions at Kahe Power Plant declined 39 percent.
"It's important to note that in Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric's emissions numbers appear larger on a relative scale because Hawaii has a limited amount of manufacturing and industrial activities. On a national level, however, the state's TRI utility emissions remain among the lowest in the nation. Hawaii is consistently ranked near the bottom of the 56 states/territories reporting. 2015 was no exception with the state ranking at 45, showing that Hawaii's environment including our air quality has remained among the best in the nation for the nearly two decades since TRI reporting was required for the electric industry sector."
Navy Region Hawaii notes the TRI report only covers agencies that are required to report the information, and the amount of emission from its Fort Kamehameha Wastewater Treatment Plant is in compliance with state and federal regulations. It issued the following statement:
"The Navy's reported amounts are attributed to the release of nutrient (nitrogen), which is a typical byproduct of the Navy's well-operated, advanced tertiary Wastewater Treatment Plant at Fort Kamehameha; one of the best, most advanced wastewater treatment facilities in the state. The amount of this nutrient compound boosts the Navy's reportable chemical releases, but it's important to note that the discharge concentrations and total amounts remain well within stringent regulatory permitted levels allowed by state and federal regulations designed to be protective of our health and environment. We assure the community that our strict monitoring practice and use of advanced technology at the Wastewater Treatment Plant at Fort Kamehameha work to ensure a safe and healthy environment for people and marine life in Hawaii."