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    Hawaii declares climate state of emergency


The island state becomes the first in the US to make the proclamation.

by: Daniel Graeber

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Hawaii declares climate state of emergency

The state legislature in Hawaii passed a bill April 29 that described climate change as an “existential” threat to humanity, the first US state to ever do so.

Both chambers agreed on a resolution that “acknowledges that an existential climate emergency threatens humanity and the natural world, declares a climate emergency, and requests state-wide collaboration toward an immediate just transition and emergency mobilisation effort to restore a safe climate,” the legislation read in part.

The non-binding measure introduced by state senator Mike Gabbard also calls for a state-wide commitment to invest in zero-emission technologies such as cleaner vehicles, energy efficiency and so-called climate-smart agriculture.

Through a state-led initiative in 2017, Hawaii expressed its steadfast loyalty to the goals outlined in the international Paris climate agreement and has a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality by 2045.

According to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Hawaii ranks among the five lowest energy-consuming states, but still uses about 11 times more energy than it produces. More than 80% of its consumption is petroleum and petroleum products, with jet fuel heading the list.

Coal supplies about 12% of the state's power, and its lone coal-fired generating station is scheduled to be retired in 2022. Of the state's 718,000 MWh of electricity production in January, petroleum powered 488,000 MWh, followed by non-hydro renewables at 135,000 MWh. In January, EIA data shows, Hawaii's average price of electricity was the highest in the US, at $0.3055/kWh.

Pointing to the near-annual record in warming trends, Oregon state representative Earl Blumenauer was joined in February by New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in calling on US president Joe Biden to declare a similar emergency at the federal level.

Biden has yet to do so, but in an address to a joint session of Congress on April 28 he stressed the role the nation’s workforce could play in accelerating energy transition efforts.

“There’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing,” he said. “[There’s] no reason why American workers can’t lead the world in the production of electric vehicles and batteries.”

Since taking office, Biden has unraveled much of his predecessor’s policies supporting the fossil fuels industry, halting leases for oil and gas drilling on public land and cancelling the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

The US economy, the president said earlier, can halve greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade by embracing the opportunities the clean energy movement presents.