Hawaii & Alaska
Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

HI - 'We Can't Just Talk About It Anymore': Hawaii's Legislature Will Take On Climate Change

The Environmental Legislative Caucus plans to announce a package of climate change measures the first week of the 2022 session.

Hawaii became the first state to declare a climate emergency last year. This year, the Legislature will be called on to come up with concrete initiatives to tackle the problem.

The Environmental Legislative Caucus, a group formed in 2020 to encourage legislative action on environmental issues, plans to introduce a package of measures including visitor green fees, habitat conservation, carbon pricing, health initiatives and more.

Opinion is divided among state officials, experts and advocates on what Hawaii’s top priority should be in addressing the complicated and intensifying climate crisis.

“There’s not one singular priority,” said Rep. Nicole Lowen, who chairs a committee on energy and environmental protection. “There are a lot of moving parts to climate policy and all of them are important.”

The stakes are high as climate change is blamed for beach erosion caused by rising sea levels and more intense and frequent storms that have led to recent flooding. Experts predict the weather extremes will worsen.

As the state begins to see economic recovery despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke predicted legislators will focus more on supporting climate change initiatives in the upcoming session, which begins on Jan. 19.

“As we continue to come out of the pandemic and try to get back to some normalcy, climate change has been a top-of-mind issue in the last several years,” Luke said. “And now that we have more revenues coming in, we need to make commitments. We need to make money commitments in order for us to address climate change. We can’t just talk about it anymore.”

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