Even with the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement last year, Hawaii is still leading the charge on climate change. The governor just signed legislation into law that will move the state towards carbon neutrality. In addition, Hawaii is going to be selling “carbon offsets” and long term would like to become self sufficient.
As islands with much of their population close to the ocean, the state is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of global warming and a rising sea level. It’s estimated that 19 billion dollars of property is at risk statewide. Hawaii had already made a pledge to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, with this legislation taking things a few steps further. By 2045, they’re committing to 100% renewable energy for both the electric grid and transportation. Right now Hawaii is run by 25% renewable energy and has about 7000 electric vehicles on the road. That’s a huge move!
Hawaii does find itself in a bit of a bind when it comes to fossil fuels though. Being out in the middle of the ocean, a ton of fossil fuels get burnt every day to transport critical resources and tourism dollars to and from the islands. Realizing there’s not much that is going to be done in short term on that front, the state is going to sell “carbon offsets” which will fund the planting of new trees to absorb carbon dioxide.
If you’re like me, you’re asking, “What the heck is a carbon offset?” A carbon offset represents the reduction of 1 ton of carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Companies and governments can purchase these either voluntarily or in order to comply with emissions regulations. The money from the sale of carbon offsets is used to fund green energy projects, or in Hawaii’s case, to plant trees.
Long term, the state would like to become less reliant on outside resources, like food, to help reduce these transportation emissions, as well as make the islands more resilient in case of disaster. The plans for carbon neutrality are still in the works, with an implementation date of 2020. The biggest challenges to overcome will be funding for electric transportation and incentives for the Hawaiian electric companies to invest in clean energy. There is a lot of work sure to come but this commitment is a great start. Hopefully other states take notice.