Equity in Climate Solutions Focus of Hawaiʻi Climate Conference

Jan 14, 2019

High tides and rising seas inundate the coastline in Waikiki. July 2017.
Credit UH Sea Grant College Program

Local and national experts on climate change are in Honolulu today to discuss the state’s response to climate change challenges. HPR Reporter Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi has this story.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the state – from coastal erosion to sea level rise to extreme weather events. Discussions at todayʻs Hawaiʻi Climate Change Conference hope to lay the groundwork for climate policy in 2019.

Flooding in Mapunapuna, O'ahu, is one of the visible signs of sea level rise and high tides.
Credit UH Sea Grant College Program

“My name is Anu Hittle, and Iʻm the coordinator for the Hawaiʻi Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission.

The goal of the conference is to help the Commission identify priority strategies and policy solutions for responding to the challenges of climate change.

“Hawai’i is a small state – we’ve got these big goals, big ambition, and then we have to mirror that ambition with action. So really that’s the question – how is the commission going to push to make that action happen?” says Hittle.

On the mitigation side of the discussion, the conference is focusing on reducing carbon emissions in Hawaiʻi’s ground transportation sector. Local experts will discuss strategies such as carbon pricing and car share programs to help the state transition away from fossil fuels.

Damage to a home in Hanalei, Kaua'i, caused by the April 2018 flooding event.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“When you are looking at making a transition where you’re saying ok, we might need to be driving less. Then people start thinking oh my god, I’m going to have to give up my car,” says Hittle, “But then how am I going to get to work or to the grocery store? So is the grocery store going to be close to you? Or is it going to be in a place where you can get to easily by car share or other zero carbon kinds of strategies?”

On the adaptation side, conference discussions will focus on helping Hawaiʻi’s most vulnerable communities adapt to sea level rise and figuring out how to pay for it. Hittle says carbon pricing may be one of the solutions.

“Can there be a revenue raising price on carbon? Can there be something that will fund adaptation? For roads that might be getting washed out for repairing for dealing with erosion issues along the coastlines, for dealing with infrastructure,” says Hittle.

Dr. Beverly Scott delivered the keynote speech at the Hawai'i Climate Conference about equity in climate change solutions
Credit Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resilience

A common thread throughout panel discussions at the conference will be equity.

“Weʻd like to look at things through not just a climate lens but an equity lens – is it just for all? Is it a just transition that we will be making to a net zero economy,” says Hittle, “Climate justice and environmental justice is a big issue so it’s been out there – it hurts the poor people harder and that’s something that we have to be very cognizant of.”

The Hawaiʻi Climate Change Conference is free and open to the public all day today at the UH East West Center. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources planned to live stream the Conference on Facebook for those who cannot attend in person.