Can Hawaii Become Carbon Neutral in 27 Years?

 Zoe Chevalier

President Donald Trump did not participate in the formal talks on global warming at the G-7 summit, and the U.S. is no longer committed to the Paris climate agreement – but Hawaii Gov. David Ige continues to pledge support for increased climate protections. He signed a bill in 2017 to adopt goals of the Paris agreement for his state, which already has among the lowest levels of carbon emissions in the country, and he signed three bills earlier this month that aim to make Hawaii carbon neutral by 2045.

Ige expressed concern about Hawaii's future in his state of the state address in January: "(T)he challenges to our island environment, such as global climate change, stare us in the face every single day."

One of the bills signed on June 5, HB 2182, reflects the growing anxiety around the state's future: "According to the Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report released in December 2017, Hawaii could suffer $19,000,000,000 in damage due to projected sea level rise," it states. The bill aims to reduce the state's carbon emissions progressively, until becoming completely carbon neutral by 2045, and encourages companies to reduce their carbon offset by investing in environmentally friendly projects such as reforestation and renewable energies.

The bill also creates a greenhouse gas sequestration task force to "examine opportunities to exploit carbon sequestering trees and vegetation to reduce urban temperatures and thereby protect public health." Another goal of this initiative is to increase the use of compost in Hawaii to help improve the soil's health.

The bill was accompanied by two other bills signed the same day: HB 2106 requires all new building projects to include a sea level rise analysis, and HB 1986 provides a framework to use carbon offsets to fund tree planting projects.

The state will provide incentives such as loans, tax credits and grants to push companies and individuals to invest in environmentally friendly procedures. These incentives are intended to encourage new agricultural and aquacultural activities that would increase carbon sequestration and enhance crop yields. The state also plans to support research and provide technical assistance to find alternatives to carbon-emitting processes.

According to a report by the National Climate Assessment, a government interagency dedicated to analyzing the effects of climate change in the U.S., the increase in ocean temperatures and acidification is leading to the destruction of marine life, affecting coral reef and fish communities in Hawaii. The NCA report also states that sea-level rise is putting populations and infrastructures at risk, especially on the coasts.

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