The legislature of Hawaii has approved two bills that will make the state carbon neutral by 2045 – the most ambitious climate change goal of any US state. Bill 1986 establishes a carbon-offset program, while House bill 2182 convenes a task force to determine the best course of action to achieve carbon neutrality within the next three decades. “This is the biggest step forward on climate change any state has yet taken,” said Hawaii representative Chris Lee in a statement.
As an island nation, Hawaii is taking such strong action to combat climate change in part because it is particularly vulnerable to its impacts. In passing the bills, legislators cited a study which estimated that Hawaii would endure $19 billion worth of damage on private property and significantly more on public infrastructure as a result of rising sea levels. In addition to its recently passed climate change legislation, Hawaii was the first state to formally adopt the goals established under the Paris climate agreement after President Trump withdrew the United States from it.
Prior to the passage of these bills, Rhode Island was the American state with the most ambitious climate change goal, which pledged to achieve an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Hawaii now stands as one of the world’s most aggressive states in its fight against climate change, sharing the same carbon neutrality timeline as Sweden. For context, carbon neutrality is expected in Iceland by 2040, Norway by 2030, Costa Rica by 2021, and the Maldives by 2020. While these steps are important, they are not sufficient. More governments must make similarly aggressive pledges toward carbon neutrality if climate change is to be halted.
Hawaii governor David Ige, who has been supportive of sustainability initiatives in the past, is expected to sign the bills into law.