Hawaiʻi Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Initiative

On June 6, 2017, Governor David Ige signed Act 32 Session Laws of Hawai‘i, 2017, making Hawai‘i the first state to enact legislation implementing parts of the Paris Agreement.  The Paris Agreement was signed by 195 nations on November 4, 2016, and is the largest, concerted global effort to combat climate change to date.

Unprecedented warming of the atmosphere due to greenhouse gas emissions poses a significant threat to the people of our State.  That is why we are fully committed to confronting climate change by systematically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving our resiliency to its deleterious effects utilizing the principles and contributing to the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

Act 32 amended Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 225P by renaming the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee (ICAC) the “Hawai‘i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission” (Climate Commission) as well as assigning various tasks to the Climate Commission related to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

It is anticipated that the new Climate Commission will provide direction, facilitation, coordination and planning among state and county agencies, federal agencies, and other partners about climate change mitigation (reduction of greenhouse gases) and climate change resiliency strategies, including but not limited to, sea level rise adaptation, water and agricultural security, and natural resource conservation.  The Climate Commission will be placed under the Department of Land and Natural Resources for administrative purposes and is to be headed jointly by the Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Director of the Office of Planning, or their designees.

The first task of the Climate Commission is to develop a statewide Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report (SLR Report) by December 31, 2017. As the only island state in the nation, Hawaii is highly vulnerable to erosion and flooding resulting from high waves, storms, and tsunami. Development and infrastructure is concentrated along low-lying shorelines and beaches. Recent studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Hawaii (UH) researchers find that the majority (70%) of beaches in Hawaii are eroding, with over 13 miles of Hawaii beaches completely lost to erosion over the past century (now characterized by coastal armoring). Rates of sea level rise (SLR) are projected to accelerate throughout this century. This will inevitably result in increased coastal erosion, and increased frequency and severity of coastal flooding events during seasonal high waves.

The DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) will lead the development of the SLR Report in coordination with the Climate Commission.  The SLR Report will serve as a framework for the State and Climate Commission to address other climate-related threats and climate change adaptation priorities.