Progress On Climate Change Is Pathway For Economic Recovery - Honolulu Civil Beat

We just surpassed the halfway point of our campaign, but still have a ways to go! Support in-depth, local journalism today and your gift will be DOUBLED.

Thanks to 915 donors, we've raised $132,000 so far!

Double My Donation

We just surpassed the halfway point of our campaign, but still have a ways to go! Support in-depth, local journalism today and your gift will be DOUBLED.

Thanks to 915 donors, we've raised $132,000 so far!

Double My Donation

About the Author

Josh Stanbro

Josh Stanbro is the City and County of Honolulu’s chief resilience officer and executive director of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency.

The twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change are good examples of the kinds of increasing and compounding 21st-century shocks and stresses facing our island community.

The Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency has seen these realities firsthand in 2020, with our staff serving in the city emergency operations center for both COVID-19 and hurricane responses alike. It’s clear that the faster we build community and climate resilience, the safer we’ll be — but also the better off our economy will be.

The problem is building that resilience can be tough. While many with economic interests in the status quo will say they don’t oppose sustainability or deny climate change, they quickly follow with “but start with someone else first,” or “we can’t move too fast.”

The problem with climate change — like COVID-19 — is that it doesn’t care what people think or what business interests might deem “politically palatable.” The science and speed of both don’t lie, and we ignore them at our peril.

Thankfully, Hawaii has the largest majority of citizens in the nation who understand the urgency of climate resilience and have demanded real solutions instead of hollow words. Over the past four years, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the outgoing City Council have quietly answered that call and worked together to lay a foundation for a “green” economic recovery with an impressive series of strong climate policies.

Oahu developed an island-wide resilience strategy informed by thousands of community voices. We revamped our building codes to ensure every new house is wired for solar panels and electric vehicles. We started the move away from single use plastics to protect our oceans and health. We changed streetlights across the island to LED bulbs, and are now focusing on energy efficient equipment and renewable energy systems throughout our park system and city buildings.

We filed suit to hold oil corporations responsible for 50 years of climate deception and protect Oahu taxpayers from millions in climate damages. We put into law a mandate for carbon neutrality by 2045, and a fossil fuel-free fleet by 2035 — but also acted on it by building charging infrastructure and adding the first of what eventually will be hundreds of cleaner, quieter electric buses to our city routes.

The result is that Honolulu is now in pole position as the incoming Biden administration unveils new programs and funding aimed squarely at tackling climate change, investing in infrastructure, accelerating renewable energy and transportation electrification, and providing more stimulus funding to jumpstart an economic recovery from COVID-19.

The baton will now be passed to a new administration and new City Council who will need to work hard to continue to transition the city fleet, add bike lanes, adopt an aggressive Climate Action Plan, expand micro-mobility, install renewable energy on city facilities, and keep Honolulu in the Paris climate agreement.

Happily, all of these actions will not only position us well to capture federal funding over the next four years, it will help create green jobs and diversify an economy that for too long has placed all of its eggs in the tourism basket. Let’s keep our climate policies strong to attract every dollar we can to build green infrastructure, install renewable energy, expand electric vehicle chargers, move or elevate roads, and put the state with the highest unemployment figures back to work building a safer and more self-sufficient island home.

The path to long-term security and economic recovery is directly rooted in building climate resilience.

The City and County of Honolulu released its first ever Climate Action Plan for Oahu on Wednesday. A Council-adopted plan is a requirement for the city to uphold the Paris climate agreement and mandated by Ordinance 20-47.

The city is requesting public input on the draft plan through Jan. 30 and invites all residents to participate in a virtual workshop to learn more and provide additional feedback on Feb. 2. To see the plan, provide comments, and sign up to participate in the workshop please click here.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

Read this next:

John Pritchett: Not In The Cards

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


About the Author

Josh Stanbro

Josh Stanbro is the City and County of Honolulu’s chief resilience officer and executive director of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency.

Latest Comments (0)

Here’s the problem. Oahu tourist population dies. It’s going to take years for it to return. Bad stories on the mainland about resort fees, unfriendly local boys, and draconian shut downs have killed the life like to Oahu. Then we are going to start raising the taxes and engaging in "climate change" activities which will price even more families out the islands? Good luck with that we might as well change Hawaii into a nature preserve.

NotsoAloha · 2 years ago

By what date will Honolulu convert its vehicle fleet to renewables? Not only would that reduce its carbon footprint, but it would encourage its driver workforce to consider going renewable, too, after they see how much better renewable vehicles are.

LarryS · 2 years ago

As it's unlikely a 2/3 majority in HI Senate and House would ever over-ride the 1978 ConCon's nuclear fission prohibition (0-carbon power), and as enviro lobby has successfully blocked lower-cost, always-on, lower-emissions natural gas for energy, how many acres of ag land will be taken by solar and wind 'farms,' (we hear 70%) and how high will they drive the price of remaining ag land leases as the 2% of our farmers who are making any money compete for what solar/wind leave as left-overs? How is this going to help food sustainability? and when will the gigantic earth moving and child or coerced labor costs for solar/wind raw materials, and the incalculable disposal costs of much of this unrecyclable equipment be factored into our 'renewable' energy carbon footprints?  Much of this 'sustainability' mantra rests on disastrously incompletely factored-in assumptions.   Our windmills aren't even pumping into reservoirs for always-on hydro!  Batteries aren't magic, aren't energy dense like fuels, and the materials needed, & disposal, are big big issues.  Watch out what we ask for, we might get it. 

Haleiwa_Dad · 2 years ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.