Hawaii Governor shares update from president’s climate change task force

HONOLULU, Hawaii – While participating in a panel discussion today at the 22nd Hawaii Conservation Conference, Gov.

Hawaii Governor shares update from president’s climate change task force

HONOLULU, Hawaii – While participating in a panel discussion today at the 22nd Hawaii Conservation Conference, Gov. Neil Abercrombie shared an update from President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, to which the Governor was appointed last fall.

In the plenary panel, titled “Navigating Change: A Dialogue with Island Leaders on Climate Change,” Gov. Abercrombie was joined by Ronald Jumeau, United Nations Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues; state Rep. Chris Lee; and Malia Nobrega-Olivera, director of Strategic Partnerships for Loli Aniau, Makaala Aniau (Climate Change, Climate Alert) at the University of Hawaii.

“When the President’s task force initially convened in December, the State of Hawaii emerged as a leader by presenting a comprehensive report on our state’s approach to adaptation titled Navigating Change at the very first meeting,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “We showed up prepared and ready to provide a strong voice for Hawaii on how best to partner with federal agencies in addressing the impacts of climate change.

“The White House has responded with an announcement yesterday on federal investments that focus on a National Disaster Resilience Competition, grants for green infrastructure, localized data and mapping, partnerships to integrate traditional ecological knowledge, and coastal management and planning – a number of areas where Hawaii is demonstrating leadership.”

The Aloha State was also recognized as having the most local stakeholder engagement among the task force members. This was achieved through an online survey and a series of Resilient Hawaii Forums hosted by the Governor earlier this year, where more than one-thousand citizens participated. The Abercrombie Administration incorporated the input from across the state into its recommendations for the task force.

State Sustainability Coordinator Jacqueline Kozak Thiel represented the Governor at the fourth task force meeting, held this week in Washington, D.C., at the White House with a special visit from President Obama. “Our proposal outlines steps to engage the next generation of leaders and communities,” she said. “One example of a priority recommendation being considered by the White House and federal partners is our plan for ‘Climate Change Corps.’ The proposal would create green jobs and service learning opportunities through community-based climate preparedness and resilience projects. Climate Change Corps members would help to restore watersheds, support food security and public health, remove invasive species, respond in disasters, and build trails and infrastructure.”

Other major issues raised to the President’s task force included the following:

· Critical importance of water and watershed management for climate adaptation (Hawaii’s “Rain Follows the Forest” program was recognized as a model for protecting water supplies)

· Improved coordination across federal agencies with state and local partners for smart, system and place-based solutions that look at nexus between energy, water, food and conservation

· Climate migration and displacement due to impacts like sea level rise on coastal communities, which is already being seen in the Pacific

· How the threat of invasive species is exacerbated by climate change (Hawaii Invasive Species Council and island Invasive Species Committees provided working models for coordinated response)

· Capacity-building and training for community-based disaster preparedness and response

· Multi-modal transportation (transit, biking, walking) as a strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

· Support for P-20 education to strengthen climate and environmental science into curriculum, including hands-on-learning through school gardens

· Need for partnerships with government, businesses, non-profit organizations and communities to build and invest in climate resilience

· The unique vulnerability of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands to the impacts of climate change and the opportunity to develop innovative solutions for sustainability and resilience with strong federal partnerships

The Governor also shared priority recommendations from the Coastal States Organization and Rising Voices – a community of engaged Indigenous leaders (including Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders), environmental experts, students, and scientific professionals from across the United States with representatives from federal, state, local and tribal resource management agencies, academia, tribal colleges, and research organizations to highlight the special needs of coastal, island and indigenous communities across the nation and Asia-Pacific region.

The task force is drafting its final recommendations to present to President Obama this fall.

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