Hawaiin Landscape

Hawaii vows to go carbon neutral by 2045

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The Governor of Hawaii has signed a trio of environmentally progressive bills which will target carbon neutrality by 2045, restore forests and require buildings to be fit for rising sea levels.

Previously, Rhode Island could have boasted the most ambitious carbon-reduction program, having established a goal in 2014 of cutting emissions by 85 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. Hawaii is the first state to sign into law a complete carbon neutrality target.

David Ige, the Governor of Hawaii, signed a bill which commits the state to becoming entirely carbon neutral within three decades. Ige also signed a bill that will fund the planting of trees in the state using carbon offsets and a third bill which will require new building projects to give consideration to rising sea levels in their planning stages.

The state – which is comprised of eight major islands in the Pacific – is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather conditions. Due to its exposure to these effects, the state has been a leader in climate action, having passed a law to move to 100 per cent renewable energy sources by 2045 in 2015.

“We are well on our way to meeting our [renewables] target and we are currently meeting our share of the US emissions goal under the Paris Agreement,” wrote Ige on his Facebook page.

Following President Trump’s 2017 withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement – an Agreement which aims to avert the most severe effects of climate change by limiting average global temperature rises to within 2°C above pre-industrial levels – Hawaii passed a law upholding the agreement within the state. Other states have continued to work to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, despite the White House’s action.

“We’re on the forefront of climate change impacts, we experience it directly and we’re a small island. People feel the trade wind days becoming less. They notice the changes in rain. They feel it getting hotter. Because we are directly exposed to this, there’s no denying it,” Scott Glenn, who heads Hawaii’s environmental quality office, told Fast Company.

According to Glenn, the state may face a challenge in electrifying its transport infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions. Whereas other states rely mostly on road transport, the islands of Hawaii rely heavily on ships and aircraft. Bringing more food production within the state could reduce this reliance on carbon-heavy transport, while the recently-signed carbon offsets bill will allow some emissions in exchange for the planting of native trees, which function as carbon sinks.

Elsewhere in the world, the Maldives – also highly vulnerable to rising sea levels – are aiming to go carbon neutral by 2020, Norway by 2030 and Sweden by 2045. Meanwhile, the government of Costa Rica has committed to entirely phasing out fossil fuels by 2021. New Zealand has put an end to new offshore oil and gas exploration and France has pledged to phase out oil and gas production by 2040 with a view to going carbon neutral by approximately 2050.

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