The climate crisis is one of the most significant issues of our time and various state departments have responsibility for aviation, energy, and climate. A recent Civil Beat article focused on the work many of our partners are doing in these areas, but omitted to note state policies, programs and initiatives that seek to directly combat the climate crisis, particularly as related to air travel.

This year, the Department of Health issued an updated Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the state with numbers verified through 2015. It will issue similar updates over the next several years. The GHG Inventory, by statute, specifically excluded air and marine transportation from the baseline and goal. However, in order to have a more complete accounting, the Inventory does estimate all transportation activities that occur within Hawaii and originate in Hawaii. The Inventory excludes emissions from international flights/shipping originating outside of Hawaii. This exclusion is consistent with international and federal EPA GHG inventory protocols.

Act 15, established in 2018, sets Hawaii’s net-negative “zero emissions clean economy target.” It does not exclude aviation or marine transportation but does say that the target is applicable to emissions “within the State.” This is also consistent with international and federal protocols.

Currently, however, no protocol exists for attributing international flights. There is an active debate on how to do this and what Hawaii should do about it. International negotiations on this are underway, as referenced in the Civil Beat article. Their purpose is to develop a protocol to account for international emissions so that the aviation industry can work toward carbon neutrality by using carbon offsets until technology exists to eliminate emissions.

The outcome of these negotiations and how the U.S. decides to implement it domestically will directly affect how Hawaii accounts for its emissions and what amount of offsets will be needed to achieve our net-negative target. This is one of the main issues that Governor Ige and state officials continue to raise at national and international venues. The State Office of Environmental Quality Control has been assisting with this effort.

However, Hawaii is not idly waiting for the protocol to be set. While the world figures this out, Hawaii is reducing emissions at our airports and piloting carbon offset projects.

The Department of Transportation has pursued carbon reduction and energy efficiency measures at state airports. Honolulu International Airport reduced its emissions by 18% per passenger from 2013-2015 and this year completed the installation of nearly 3,000 solar panels. Kahului Airport has an electric tram for its new car rental facility instead of shuttle buses.

State agencies have met with experimental technology companies like Ampaire to facilitate pilot projects. DOT Highways did a pilot project with CarbonCure that was so successful that DOT Highways committed to using carbon capture technology in its concrete for all new projects.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has two forest carbon offset pilot projects underway on Hawaii island and Haleakala. These projects are intended to create certified carbon offsets, providing the opportunity for businesses and individuals to offset carbon emissions to help restore degraded environments to thriving habitats for our endangered and indigenous species.

In addition to forest carbon offsets, the State Office of Planning chairs the Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Task Force, which is tasked with developing approaches to sequestration and promoting healthy soils.

As the most isolated islands on Island Earth, international emissions protocols, offset requirements, and technology shifts will impact Hawaii directly. Enhancing the carbon offset opportunities in Hawaii means that national and international businesses, when faced with the desire or requirement to offset their emissions, can do so here and in a way that helps make Hawaii more sustainable.

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