Major congratulations to the nearly 40 organizations that make up the Hawaii Climate & Environmental Coalition on the HUGE win! The Hawaii legislature has passed Senate Resolution SCR44 declaring a climate emergency in the state.
This resolution is the first state-level declaration of climate emergency in the United States.
The resolution was introduced by Senator Mike Gabbard and received unanimous support in the Senate, and introduced by Representative Lisa Marten in the House where it received only one no vote.
“I’m very pleased that the Legislature has taken this step by declaring a climate emergency,” said Senator Mike Gabbard. “We must take strong action to address climate change related challenges, such as sea level rise, coastal erosion, and the protection of our critical infrastructure.”
“Hawaii is the first State to join a movement largely led by Cities and Counties to declare a Climate Emergency, which reflects the commitment our State legislature continues to make to address the causes and the impacts of Climate Change,” said Representative Lisa Marten.
Under the resolution, the State commits to “statewide action that is rooted in equity, self-determination, culture, tradition, and the belief that people locally and around the world have the right to clean, healthy, and adequate air, water, land, food, education, and shelter.”
Among U.S. states, Hawaii is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of the climate emergency, principally from sea level rise causing coastal erosion and storm surge. Hawaii has the highest consumer electric rates in the nation, as coal and petroleum must be imported. The state already has benchmarks in place for reaching 100% renewable electricity generation by 2045.
A recently concluded three-year process redefining the operations and incentives for Hawaiian Electric electric utility may become a model for future utility reform in the U.S. The new incentive structure is a shift away from utilities getting paid for “Cost of Service,” meaning the company earns a guaranteed profit on all investments they make, to “Performance Based Regulation” where the company gets paid for achieving goals desired by their customers and the government, including decarbonization and lower rates. Whether this change is sufficient to equitably achieve drastic cuts in emissions is yet to be proven.
This declaration of climate emergency is an important step in recognizing the scale of the problem and committing to bold action. We’re grateful for the ongoing work of Hawaii’s Climate Coalition, who will continue to push for the urgent action called for by this declaration.