Officials with Honolulu’s voter-created climate change office recently wrapped up a tour around Oahu to gather public input on the city’s first Climate Action Plan.

Hundreds of residents participated in 11 meetings, which began in September in Salt Lake and ended last week in Manoa, to learn more about how climate change is affecting their communities and tell government leaders how to best reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan, which is a required component of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s commitment to the Paris climate accord, is expected to be released in late 2019. It will include a local inventory of current greenhouse emissions from burning fossil fuels, a series of target emission reduction goals, a list of actions to reduce carbon pollution and community outreach to build awareness, according to the city’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency.

Josh Stanbro, Honolulu’s chief resilience officer, has been holding Climate Action Plan meetings around Oahu over the past few months. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Josh Stanbro, who heads the office, said the goal of the Climate Action Plan meetings was to engage the public and leave with something tangible to inform the plan that will be developed over the next several months.

The meetings were generally well attended. Nearly 100 people went to the final one at the University of Hawaii. A similar number attended a meeting on the Windward side last month. Others were held on the North Shore, Leeward side and central Oahu.

“The No. 1 tool of resilience is community,” Stanbro told about 90 residents last month at a community meeting in Kaneohe.

He told Civil Beat there was a sense of eagerness and a desire to accelerate plans to meet current goals that came through in the public meetings.

“We know the climate is not waiting for us to develop a plan.” — Josh Stanbro, Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency

Hawaii already has the nation’s most aggressive plan to become carbon neutral by 2045, but Stanbro said members of the public asked if it could be done sooner.

“We were really pleased with the amount of folks we had come and the renewed passion around it,” he said.

Scientists have forecast a wide range of climate change effects in Hawaii. They include rising sea levels, weaker trade winds, more wildfires, dying coral reefs, stronger storms, threats to freshwater supplies and loss of native species.

The Climate Action Plan will consider prescribing ways to reduce carbon pollution by increasing renewable energy, for instance, or implementing energy efficiency measures in commercial and residential buildings. Shifting to an electric transportation system was also identified in conjunction with establishing more pedestrian-friendly communities.

Stanbro said a separate and distinct strategy for climate adaptation will begin to be developed later this year. That will focus on issues like flood vulnerability, heat waves, sea level rise and hurricane strength. It will include a public input process as well.

Additionally, his office is creating a climate resilience strategy, slated for release in late February, that will incorporate some aspects of the Climate Action Plan.

“We know the climate is not waiting for us to develop a plan,” Stanbro said.

Learn more about the development of the Climate Action Plan here.

Check out this video from the final presentation: 

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