Honolulu — Today during a press conference, Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued a formal directive to all city departments and agencies to take action in order to address, minimize the risks from, and adapt to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. The directive was issued in response to the Sea Level Rise Guidance and Climate Change Brief presented today to Mayor Caldwell and members of the City Council by leadership of the city’s Climate Change Commission.
The Mayor’s directive requires all city departments and agencies under the mayor’s jurisdiction to take several actions, including:
- View climate change and the need for both climate change mitigation and adaptation as an urgent matter, and take a proactive approach in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protect and prepare the city for the physical and economic impacts of climate change;
- Use the Sea Level Rise Guidance and Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report in their planning, programing, and capital improvement decisions to mitigate impacts to infrastructure and critical facilities subject to sea level rise, which may include elevation or relocation of infrastructure and critical facilities, the elevating of surfaces, structures, and utilities, and/or other adaptation measures;
- Propose revisions to shoreline rules and regulations to incorporate sea level rise and conserve a natural, unarmored shoreline wherever possible; and
- Work cooperatively to develop and implement land use policies, hazard mitigation actions, and design and construction standards that mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.
In addition, the directive strongly encourages independent agencies, city-affiliated entities, and city-related institutions to help advance these efforts and adopt similar initiatives.
“I appreciate the hard work and professionalism of the Climate Change Commission in providing our administration and the City Council these thoughtful, science-based recommendations,” said Mayor Caldwell upon issuing directive 18-01. “This guidance confirms that climate change is the defining challenge to humanity — and to Oʻahu — in the 21st century. By issuing this directive, I want to ensure that every policy and project decision dealing with sea level rise going forward is made in the best interest of the public.”
In its Sea Level Rise Guidance, the commission emphasized that the city should be planning for high tide flooding associated with 3.2 feet of sea level rise by mid-century, and, because of continued high global carbon emissions, take into consideration 6 feet of sea level rise in later decades of the century, especially for critical infrastructure with long expected lifespans and low-risk tolerance. The sea level rise guidelines recommended by the commission are consistent with findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Based on scientific modeling of sea level rise impacts identified in the Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report issued by the State of Hawaiʻi in December 2017, the Commission noted that:
- Nearly 4,000 structures on Oʻahu—the vast majority being homes or businesses—will be chronically flooded with 3.2 feet of sea level rise;
- Of the 9,400 acres of land located within the 3.2 foot sea level rise exposure area, over half is designated for urban land uses, making O‘ahu the most vulnerable of the Hawaiian islands;
- With 3.2 feet of sea level rise, almost 18 miles of Oʻahu’s coastal roads will become impassible, jeopardizing access to and from many communities; and
- Oʻahu has lost more than 5 miles of beaches to coastal erosion fronting seawalls and other shoreline armoring, with many more miles of beach certain to be lost with sea level rise if widespread armoring is allowed.
In an accompanying Climate Change Brief, an independent report that lays the foundation for the Sea Level Rise Guidance, the Climate Change Commission agreed with the overwhelming majority of international scientists that the world is currently on a pathway of warming more than 5.4oF above pre-industrial levels. They concluded this level of warming will be extremely dangerous to humanity, including rapid melting of ice sheets, extreme heating of the tropics, damaged marine and terrestrial ecosystems on which we rely for food and water, superstorms, and disrupted international economic networks. The commission warned that the climate is already shifting in this direction, and without dramatic, broad-based, and immediate cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, the very worst impacts of climate change will become inevitable.
Specific to the City and County of Honolulu, the commission included in its detailed Sea Level Rise Guidance that rising seas will threaten Oʻahu communities and natural ecosystems in multiple ways, including: increased vulnerability to flooding; land loss and coastal erosion; saltwater intrusion into streams and coastal wetlands; and increased damage when hurricanes, tsunamis, and seasonal high waves strike. The commission further concluded that rising seas will negatively impact local communities, habitats, property, infrastructure, economies, and industry.
The commission, which carefully tracks a combination of international research and local modeling to underpin its decisions, also stressed that impacts from high tide flooding will arrive decades ahead of permanent inundation. Tidal flooding is projected to become more frequent and erode beaches, flood roads, and in times of rainfall bring local transportation to a standstill. According to modeling by NOAA, under their “Intermediate scenario,” flooding exceeding last year’s “king tide” level could be present an average of twice per month in Honolulu before mid-century.
“The voters of Oʻahu established this commission to advise city leadership because they can see first-hand that our climate is changing and we need to act,” said Josh Stanbro, chief resilience officer and executive director of the city’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. “This directive will make us stronger and safer, and is an important additional step in our work to create a larger resilience strategy for the entire island of Oʻahu.”
“Coastal communities across the world are grappling with how to address rapid sea level rise due to climate change,” said Dr. Makena Coffman, chair of the Climate Change Commission. “The commissioners and I appreciate that our community has established a process by which science can directly inform decision-making. The city’s leadership has been proactive in understanding the scope of the problems that climate change will create for Hawaiʻi and changing policies to make us more resilient. Embracing the commission’s sea level rise guidance is another step in this direction.”
“As a scientist, father, and grandfather, I am grateful that Mayor Caldwell is acting with courage and speed on the commission’s recommendations,” said Dr. Charles Fletcher, vice chair of the Climate Change Commission. “I am extremely proud that in the City and County of Honolulu, and throughout the state of Hawai‘i, our leadership recognizes that every community must act immediately to reduce global carbon emissions, and to adapt to the climate change risks that are now inevitable. Unless the world joins us, we will all be facing severe and dire consequences.”
For a link to the directive, the letter from the Climate Change Commission to the mayor and City Council, the Sea Level Rise Guidance and Climate Change Brief, and other resources, click here.
Note: The Climate Change Commission, which consists of five members with expertise in climate change in Hawaiʻi, unanimously adopted its Sea Level Rise Guidance and Climate Change Brief on June 5. In accordance with the City Charter, the commission is charged with gathering the latest science and information on climate change impacts to Hawai‘i and providing advice and recommendations to the mayor, City Council, and executive departments as they look to draft policy and engage in planning for future climate scenarios.
One way that the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i is commemorating our 50th Anniversary is by hosting a series of “victory hikes” throughout the state, at least one per quarter by each group. This second quarter, the O‘ahu Group held its victory hike to Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail. The hike was led by Jean Fujikawa, an Outings leader of ten years who also works for the O‘ahu Invasive Species Committee, and guest speaker Reese Liggett, a former Outings Committee Chair and hike leader.
During our hike, Reese revealed how in 1995-1998 the Sierra Club championed efforts at the ‘Āina Haina Neighborhood Board, State Board of Land and Natural Resources, and Honolulu City Council to establish public access rules for the Wiliwilinui Ridge trail. Reese was the Outings Chair who helped coordinate this three-year effort, which resulted in the March 4,1998 Bureau of Conveyances Document No. 98-028929 issued by the City and signed by Mayor Jeremy Harris. This document prohibits the Waialae Iki V Community Association from requesting identification of hikers who want to enter the gated community to access Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail in the State’s Conservation District. Hikers driving through the security gate can now mention the state’s public access easement for the Ridge Trail and will be allowed to drive to the trailhead without having their ID’s scanned into the Waialae Iki V system.
Since 1998, O‘ahu Group Outings continues to lead hikes and service projects that improve the safety and accessibility of this trail. Outings leader Randy Ching pointed out the sections of trail that he and Ed Mersino maintained by installing new steps and water diversions. Some of the older steps were still painted with the “Sierra Club Hawai‘i Chapter” name, demonstrating how our work has stood the testament of time and thousands of hikers on this popular East O‘ahu trail.
Also joining the hike were members of the O‘ahu Group’s Executive Committee and several participants who were joining the Sierra Club for their very first hike. Our group of ten enjoyed a sunny day learning about this victory hike, discovering native and edible plants, and hiking into the clouds at the top of the ridge.
We encourage you to attend one or more of our victory hikes to join in our 50th anniversary celebration and learn about the club’s efforts and successes in building, protecting, preserving and improving special areas throughout the State. Our 3rd quarter victory hikes are published in our Mālama Newsletters and the online calendar – we hope to see you on the trails!
Honolulu – Mayor Kirk Caldwell has co-signed a public letter with the Mayors for Solar Energy to reiterate his support for clean, renewable energy (letter attached). The bipartisan group of 180 U.S. mayors, representing cities large and small in 42 states, resolve to make solar power a key element of their communities’ energy plans and call on others to embrace clean energy from the sun.
“Solar on thousands of homes and government buildings is helping Honolulu reach our sustainable energy goals,” said Mayor Caldwell. “We are on the front lines of sea level rise and other climate change effects and we must drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels. My administration is working to expedite permits for photovoltaic and battery storage systems and the results are clear.”
The move by mayors to promote solar power comes at a time when the federal administration is rolling back Obama-era policies aimed at reducing climate emissions and encouraging renewable energy.
“Oʻahu moved up to 21 percent renewable in 2017 from 19 percent the year before, and the lion’s share of that growth came from private rooftop solar installation,” said Josh Stanbro, the City and County of Honolulu’s Chief Resilience Officer. “Local governments and cities are leading on climate change policy right now, and our residents are also stepping in to help build a solar future from the ground up.”
The commitment from Mayor Caldwell to accelerate the transition to solar comes on the heels of a new report released by Environment America called “Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies are Expanding Solar Power in America.” The report found that Honolulu ranks first in the nation for installed solar capacity per capita in the United States. Honolulu also jumped up to the No. 3 slot for total solar installed in a city. For a link to the Environment America report, click here.
“It is really exciting to see Honolulu rise in the rankings of volume of overall solar capacity,” said Aki Marceau of Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit that has funded 35 clean energy, transportation, water, and agriculture projects with startups in Hawai‘i. “Local businesses, utilities, and state and city agencies have stepped up to make this possible. We hope to see this kind of engagement with new, clean technologies beyond solar.”
In 2016, nearly 2,000 people were employed in solar jobs on Oʻahu, and solar permits issued in February 2018 on Oʻahu were 26 percent higher than the previous year – signaling the potential for expanded growth in the sector through 2018. Mayor Caldwell and the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting have been working with the renewable energy industry to streamline battery storage and photovoltaic (PV) approvals, which helped lead to the expansion.
William Giese, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Solar Energy Association, lauded the commitment by Mayor Caldwell and pledged to continue to keep Honolulu at the top of the list. “The Hawaiʻi Solar Energy Association will continue to work with Mayor Caldwell and the City and County of Honolulu to bring more solar to Oʻahu, lower electric bills, increase customer choice, and drive Hawaiʻi towards 100 percent clean energy.”
While residents can save money with solar panels on their roof, the entire community benefits from increased renewable energy production.
“Cities everywhere should take steps to switch to solar energy,” said Emma Searson, Environment America’s Go Solar Campaign Coordinator. “By tapping into the power of the sun, cities can benefit from cleaner air and improved public health, while simultaneously tackling climate change.”
Testimony needed to support Bill 15 (2018)- the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency budget, which has a hearing on Wednesday, April 11th at 9 AM!
In 2016, O‘ahu residents voted to establish an “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency” through a City Charter Amendment. Last year, the O‘ahu Group diligently advocated for the Honolulu City Council to fully fund this new office, and we succeeded! With 7 full-time positions, the Office has already been making progress on climate change planning, community and stakeholder outreach, clean energy projects, and improving the resiliency of our coastal zones and waterways. This Office also supports the work of the City’s Climate Change Commission and spearheaded efforts for the 4 County Mayor’s commitment towards a 100% Renewable Transportation goal by 2045. Woohoo!
…but the 2019 budget for this Office needs to be approved by the Honolulu City Council and we need testimony submitted in support once again!
How you can help:
Please submit online testimony in support for Bill 15 (2018) before April 11th, when it will be heard in the City Council’s Budget Committee. Bill 15 (2018) is an Executive Operating Budget bill that includes a request of $1,148,764 for the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, which is focusing efforts on implementing the Paris climate agreement, improving energy efficiency in City buildings and fleets, and developing a Resilience Strategy for Honolulu, including a Climate Action Plan.
Because Bill 15 (2018) is a huge budget bill, you must specifically mention that you are in support of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency. See sample testimony below.
Link to online testimony form HERE.
Details for the online testimony form:
Meeting Date: 04-11-2018
Agenda Item: Bill 15 (2018)
Your Position: Support
Written Testimony: “Aloha Chair Ozawa and members of the Budget Committee, My name is ____ and I am a resident of _____. I am in strong support of appropriating $1,148,764 for the Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency in Bill 15 (2018). I believe that this proposed budget is a necessary and worthwhile investment for this voter-mandated Office. This budget request supports the salaries of 7 full-time employees. Additionally, it appropriates $200,000 for a City energy audit to identify potential cost savings and City emissions reduction, $150,000 for a Climate Action Plan that is required by our pledge to adhere to the Paris climate agreement, $75,000 to support the Coastal Land Data Program, which is critical to identify where sea level rise will directly impact City infrastructure, and $60,000 to provide matching funds for the federal Americorps VISTA grant, which would enable the potential to fill 4 full-time VISTA slots to advance City goals for water and energy efficiency, community outreach, develop partnerships, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I am also supportive of Councilmember Manahan’s proposed amendment to increase the Office’s budget by $150,000 for the Electrification Transportation Program, to support the expansion of electric vehicles for public transportation. Supporting the Office at its full budget request will allow the city to take advantage of private grant funds like the 100 Resilient Cities partnership and maintain Honolulu as a leader in the sustainability movement. This Office is doing critical work to protect O‘ahu’s environment, communities, and infrastructure in the face of climate change. Mahalo for your ongoing support for this Office in Bill 15 (2018).”
Attend the April 11th Meeting! Online testimony is very helpful, but if you are able to give in-person testimony it would be extremely valuable to have supporters for the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency attend the April 11th 9 AM Budget Committee meeting, which will be held on the 2nd floor of Honolulu Hale. Agenda can be viewed HERE. We hope to see you at this important budget hearing on Wednesday, April 11th!
Below are some of the comments the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group gave before the Honolulu Planning Commission at their March 21, 2018 meeting in regards to the updated proposed O‘ahu General Plan. The O‘ahu General Plan is a document that helps guide future development throughout the island and it is long overdue for an update. Mahalo to Honolulu Planning Commission under the leadership of Chair Ka‘iulani Sodaro for taking in consideration many of the concerns the O‘ahu Group provided on the O‘ahu General Plan in relations to population, short-term vacation rentals, and renewable energy. We are pleased that the plan continues to emphasize language relating to climate change, sea level rise, renewable energy, agriculture, and transit-oriented development. Major amendments to the O‘ahu General Plan that were adopted by the Planning Commission include:
- Reinstate language to “Publicize the desire of the City and County to limit population growth.”
- Retain language: “manage” instead of “facilitate” for “the development of secondary resort areas: Ko‘olina Resort, Turtle Bay Resort, Hoakalei Resort at Ocean Point, Mākaha Valley, and La‘ie, in a manner which respects existing lifestyles and the natural environment, and avoids substantial increases in the cost of providing public services in the area.”
According to DPP, these areas were named specifically because they have already been authorized as secondary resort areas.
- Strike language to “Consider small-scale community oriented visitor accommodations in non-resort areas with attention to community input, compatibility of uses, infrastructure adequacy, and the ability to enforce effectively.”
Essentially this would help prevent the further proliferation of short term vacation rentals in residential communities.
- Combine policy language: “Support and encourage programs and projects, including economic incentives, regulatory measures, and educational efforts, which will reduce O‘ahu’s dependence on fossil fuels as its primary source of energy. Promote and assist efforts to establish safe and adequate fossil fuel supply reserves within Hawai’i’s boundaries until Hawai’i reaches its renewable energy goals.
This took into consideration our issue that we should not be promoting any more fossil fuels for O‘ahu, as our State has already committed to 100% clean energy by 2045.
7 changes were made and adopted at this meeting, including the four above. The next step for the O‘ahu General Plan is to be adopted by the City Council. We will continue to advocate for sound environmental policy to be included in the O‘ahu General Plan.
Below are our written comments which we used as a basis for our oral testimony during the public meeting:
Mahalo for your support.
February 26, 2018
The existence of the Navy’s underground fuel storage facility at Red Hill — constructed during the World War II era — was a state secret until the early 1990s, when the tank farm was declassified. That disclosure prompted petroleum leak-related worries and other concerns about risks tied to the facility’s 20 aging fuel tanks — each large enough to swallow Aloha Tower. They’re perched just 100 feet above Oahu’s primary aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 400,000 residents, from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai.
In 1992, state legislation was enacted directing Hawaii’s Health Department to put in place rules requiring upgrade or replacement of underground storage tanks tethered to various public services and private businessess by late 1998. The law is part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that tasks states with setting standards for the EPA to enforce.
But in a misguided move, DOH exempted the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility from the deadline-driven lineup.
It now comes as a relief that a state judge has corrected that misstep. Ruling last week in favor of the Sierra Club in its lawsuit against the Health Department, Circuit Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree put the matter succinctly: “The statute trumps the admin rule.”
The DOH has countered that it’s already in the process of adopting new rules that do not exempt the military, which it expects to begin enforcing in October. But the court’s opinion must spur the state to move faster — and push the Navy to pick up its pace in addressing needed Red Hill upgrades.
Concern about the facility’s potential to taint drinking water quality shot up in the aftermath of a 27,000-gallon fuel leak in January 2014. The next year, the Navy entered into an agreement with the EPA and the Health Department (site regulator) that requires it to research and evaluate structural upgrades to the concrete tanks, which are fitted with quarter-inch steel plates.
After much foot-dragging, in December, the Navy released a study that examines six options ranging from enhancing current maintenance and inspection to a potentially high-priced pick that involves creating a carbon steel tank within a tank. The EPA, Health Department and Navy are now using the study, along with community input and other studies, to select a final upgrade option.
The military needs the Red Hill facility’s flow of fuel to support vessels and aircraft in its Pacific theater. Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, has pointed out that in the last 12 years more than $200 million has been spent to continue modernization, and that recent tests at monitoring wells and other sources “confirm our drinking water continues to be safe to drink.”
Oahu residents, however, are due for updated protections. Red Hill’s tanks are now nearly 80 years old. And studies document leaks dating back to late 1940s. In all, reports suggest there have been more than 30 leaks, with at least 170,000 gallons of fuel seeping away from tanks.
The Sierra Club is correct in contending that pace toward a better buffer against potential environmental and public health threats is too slow, particularly with looming EPA budget cuts expected under the Trump administration. Right now, we cannot rely heavily on the federal government to prioritize protections of our state’s natural environment.
After Wednesday’s ruling in Circuit Court, Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, said: “It’s time to fix up the Red Hill fuel tanks or shut them down.” Agreed. Four years have passed since the worrisome tank fuel leak that the Navy has blamed on poorly performed work by a contractor and the military branch’s own insufficient oversight.
It’s frustrating to see that the Navy and environmental regulators have yet to even settle on a satisfactory fix. A selection that prioritizes public safety should be made quickly.
Like to Hike? Support SB 2331 SD1, a bill that would fund the Department of Land and Natural Resources “Na Ala Hele” Program. Na Ala Hele is the State of Hawai‘i Trail and Access Program- managing over 128 trail and road features that span 855 miles throughout the state!
How you can help:
SB 2331 SD1 Relating to Trails has a hearing next week! Please submit written testimony in SUPPORT for this bill by Tuesday, February 27, at 11am. You can submit your support via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can use the following testimony as a guide:
“Aloha Chair Dela Cruz, Vice Chair Keith-Agaran, and members of the Ways and Means Committee. My name is ________ and I live in __________. I’m writing in strong support for SB 2331 SD 1, which appropriates funding for “Na Ala Hele”, the State’s Trail and Access Program. Keeping up with the increasing impacts on our beloved hiking trails is a constant challenge for the State. This bill would provide critical funds for improving access to and maintaining state controlled recreational trails statewide and promoting hiker safety and hiker etiquette education and outreach. I love to hike because ______________ and believe funding our trails is so important because ______________. Please support SB 2331 SD1 and pass this bill.”
Thank you for your support in protecting our trails and promoting hiker education and safety!