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O'ahu Has New Roadmap for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

C Climate Action Plan 6-2021.png
City and County of Honolulu

We know what is driving climate change, it's greenhouse gas emissions. Honolulu now has a roadmap for the first leg in a long process of reducing carbon emissions. The county plan offers new data on how we're polluting, and outlines what O'ahu should do over the next five years.

If you want to know where most of O'ahu's greenhouse gasses are coming from, electricity in buildings was 35% of all emissions in 2017. Ground transportation was 19%, according to the new Climate Action Plan.

Matthew Gonser, head of the City's Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, said reducing emissions from large buildings is part of the plan, but so is spreading the benefits from green energy to more people.

"How do we hui up together?" Gonser poses questions that could leverage group action. "How do we aggregate some purchasing power? How do we facilitate getting cost savings directly onto people's roofs so they can benefit in this transition as well?"

Gonser says there are models out there like the successful Solarize campaign in Kekaha on Kaua'i. They are not easy to accomplish, he cautions, but every successful project helps pave the way.

And Gonser points out, climate action is going to save money as well.

"Huge amounts of savings. We currently export several billions of dollars annually to bring in the fossil fuels that now are requiring us to think about the impacts as a result of climate change."

Gonser says getting the emission reductions we'll need will mean changing patterns around ground transportation, how we get electricity, especially, how we power our buildings, and what we do with waste.

These sectors comprise 57% of O'ahu's greenhouse gas emissions.

"One of the great exciting things about climate action is that it's really an economic prosperity proposal in terms of transforming our economy, investing in local, clean, green jobs, and bringing down long term costs for residents and businesses."

The long-term costs of inaction are important to keep in mind, as communities grapple with tough decisions like who will pay for vanishing shoreline property? Or for retrofitting old buildings? Where will higher density, green housing be built?

The Climate Office seeks out citizen participation, on the premise that people who meet on the way to these decisions become part of a more resilient community.

"There's great opportunity to bring direct economic and quality of life benefits to residents but also savings to the city, savings to small businesses, supporting them in transitioning to more efficient operations. But we know more is needed to be done," Gonser said.

A lot more is needed in the larger effort to zero emissions. But you can start by getting a rebate for new, energy-saving appliances through Hawai'i Energy. Check Hawai'i Energy, a super site for home and business. Check for rebates and energy-saving tips, including tips for reopening after Covid.

Read the Climate Action Plan.

By the way, Honolulu's Rent and Utility Relief program just reopened for applications. Qualified individuals can get up to 12 months of relief.

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