Honolulu’s New Office of Climate Change

Every ten years the Honolulu Charter Commission proposes changes on the City’s Charter, or Honolulu’s constitution. Twenty proposed changes made it to the November 2016 ballot such as Question 6: a City Charter Amendment that would create an “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency”. The O‘ahu Group was ecstatic when majority of residents voted yes on this Charter Amendment because we are already seeing the impacts of climate change, yet policies to combat these effects have not been a focus at the city level. Passage of this amendment shows community support to prioritize sustainability and resiliency in a transparent matter.

Here are some of the things the O‘ahu Group suggests the city considers when creating this office:

  • Holistic: this office should create and implement a comprehensive climate change plan and resiliency strategy tailored for Honolulu; incorporating all major climate change impacts, potential catastrophic events, and other social, economic, and environmental stressors into this strategy.
  • Action Planned: this office should prioritize sustainability projects consistent with the resiliency strategy to help adapt to sea level rise and plan development accordingly, end our dependence on fossil fuels, protect our natural resources and open space, and increase our food self-sufficiency.
  • Inclusive: this office should effectively convene city departments, policy makers, scientists, and community members. The staff should work on a variety of tasks: from implementing the resiliency strategy through policy and projects, to educating the public about climate change and promoting a vision of a resilient future, and engaging stakeholders to support a plan of action, including future revenues for major infrastructure work.

We believe that the formation of this office will help facilitate discussion about the impacts of climate change, promote environmental stewardship, and initiate sustainability projects on O‘ahu. Seven positions are proposed for this office in the Mayor’s 2018 budget with funding for 5 requested, including: a Chief Resiliency Officer/Executive Director, a Deputy Director, Secretary, Coastal Project Manager, and Energy Coordinator. The Chief Resiliency Officer position will be funded by a two year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, but the other positions will need to be approved by the City Council during budget hearings from April to June. Eventually, we hope the office will be expanded to include a few more key positions, such as a grants manager, a communications coordinator, a food policy coordinator, and a water conservation coordinator. We’ll be lobbying Councilmembers to support this office, so stay tuned on how you can get involved. This is an exciting time for Honolulu, mahalo for your support!

 

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