Imagine Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner agreeing on something.

Then throw in Rick Perry, Jerry Brown, ExxonMobile, Apple, Hilton Hotels, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AARP and the Sierra Club.

Okay, maybe that overstates it.

But it does give a sense of an unusual coming together Monday of top Hawaii state and county leaders who, with the support of leading businesses and nonprofit groups, launched what’s called the Aloha+ Challenge: A Culture of Sustainability – He Nohona ‘Ae‘oia.

State and county leaders celebrate the launching of Aloha+ Challenge: A Culture of Sustainability at the Capitol Auditorium, July 7, 2014

State and county leaders celebrate the launching of Aloha+ Challenge: A Culture of Sustainability at the Capitol Auditorium, July 7, 2014

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Maybe it’s not all that hard to bring top tier folks together. Hawaii is an island state dominated by one political party, and we all live and work closely with each other.

Still, it made for a pretty nifty photo op and a “feel good” moment when Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the four county mayors and the CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs signed a declaration Monday setting 2030 sustainability targets.

The targets involve increasing clean energy use, producing more local food, better managing natural resources, reducing waste, growing the state smartly, mitigating global warming and creating green jobs.

Why the urgency?

“Climate change is here, and we have to adapt starting yesterday,” said William Aila, the state Land Board director who handled emcee duties Monday.

Abercrombie and Kenoi Aloha+ Challenge

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi.

Abercrombie Administration

The launch follows the unanimous passing of an Aloha+ Challenge resolution by the Hawaii Legislature this year.

“Hawaii exemplifies the urgent need for action on the global challenge to build more sustainable economies, as Hawaii’s people depend on imports for roughly 95 percent of their energy and 85 percent of their food, at an estimated annual cost of more than $8 billion,” the resolution states.

The resolution was inspired by an invitation last year to Hawaii to join the Global Island Partnership, an organization committed to conservation of island biodiversity in partnership with the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Abercrombie accepted the invite.

More background: Act 181 of 2011 established sustainability as a priority in the Hawaii State Plan and incorporated the definition, goals and principles of sustainability from the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan into state law.

The goals of Aloha+ Challenge are as follows:

  1. Clean Energy: 70 percent clean energy — 40 percent from renewables and 30 percent from efficiency (reinforcing the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative)
  2. Local Food: At least double local food production — 20 to 30 percent of food consumed is grown locally
  3. Natural Resource Management: Reverse the trend of natural resource loss mauka to makai by increasing freshwater security, watershed protection, community-based marine management, invasive species control and native species restoration
  4. Waste Reduction: Reduce the solid waste stream prior to disposal by 70 percent through source reduction, recycling, bioconversion and landfill diversion methods
  5. Smart Sustainable Communities: Increase livability and resilience in the built environment through planning and implementation at state and county levels
  6. Green Workforce and Education: Increase local green jobs and education to implement these targets

The leaders were all smiles during Monday’s press event at the Capitol Auditorium.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he had never seen such a gathering for one cause before.

Kamana‘opono Crabbe, OHA’s chief executive officer, said OHA trustees were attracted to the Aloha+ Challenge because it was “a great fit” with the agency’s own primary mission to perpetuate Native Hawaiian culture and preserve island resources.

Quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said, “We all got here on different boats but we are all in the same boat now.”

“Climate change is here, and we have to adapt starting yesterday.” — Land Board Director William Aila

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa explained that a group from Fukushima, Japan, recently visited the Valley Island. Arakawa was inspired that the city, whose nuclear power plant was devastated by a tsunami and earthquake, had just three years later placed more than 1,000 windmills offshore to help with energy needs.

Like Arakawa, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. of Kauai is running for re-election this year. That may explain why Carvalho spoke at length, in detail and with great enthusiasm about all the recent “green” projects on the Garden Island. They include installation of solar panel farms and LED bulbs in street lights.

Abercrombie is up for re-election, too, and he joked that Kenoi had ostensibly endorsed the governor’s candidacy when Kenoi said he looked forward to continue to work with Abercrombie. (Arakawa has endorsed former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanemann for governor.)

Hawaii Green Growth

Members and supporters of the Hawaii Green Growth project.

Hawaii Green Growth

Laughs aside, Abercrombie said the launching of the Aloha+ Challenge reflected a “genuine commitment” among island leaders toward working on shared goals.

“We have much more in common than we have differences,” he said.

Government officials also agreed to develop a joint system of tracking progress on the challenge through an online dashboard. It will be developed by the Hawaii Green Growth Sustainability Measures Start-up Project and the state Office of Information Management and Technology.

Aloha+ Challenge meetings are planned on Maui in August and on the Big Island in November.

In another tie-in, the governor sits on President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The administration says it is in a “strong position” to provide recommendations on how the federal government can support local efforts outlined by the Challenge project.

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