Hawaii Passes Nation’s Most Ambitious Carbon Neutrality Goal

carbon neutral

Hawaii’s legislature passed two bills this week setting the state on a course for becoming carbon neutral by 2045 — the most ambitious goal of its kind in the country. The bills are likely to become signed into law by the governor, and include establishing a greenhouse-gas sequestration task force to create a plan, Quartz reported.

The state could suffer $19 billion in damage due to projected sea level rise, the legislature found. With so much at stake, house bills 2182 and 1986 aim to help the Hawaii offset more carbon dioxide than it produces. HB1986 calls for a carbon offset program that takes revenues from the sale of carbon offset credits and puts them in a forest stewardship fund or invests them into projects that shore up the state’s water infrastructure or mitigate climate change threats to water sustainability.

HB2182 points to greenhouse gas sequestration as presenting opportunities for foreign investment in the state’s economy. “Airlines have demonstrated a desire to invest globally-required carbon offset dollars in Hawaii’s environmental projects,” the bill reads. “Companies, governments, and other individuals would also like to offset their carbon footprint by investing in environmental projects such as renewable energies.”

Before Hawaii’s latest plans, Rhode Island had the most ambitious goal — reducing 1990-level emissions by 85% by 2050, according to Quartz’s Akshat Rathi.

“[I]t’s not clear if the state has thought through how hard a net-zero emissions target is to meet,” he wrote. “The bill mentions initiatives such as planting trees and improving soil health as means of sequestering carbon, but not technologies such as carbon capture and storage that are proven to reduce emissions on a larger scale.”

A new greenhouse-gas sequestration task force could help with that, Rathi added. Objectives include working with public and private stakeholders on a greenhouse gas emissions baseline, setting benchmarks, identifying measurement criteria, encouraging agricultural and aquacultural greenhouse gas sequestration practices, as well as finding ways to expand the urban tree canopy.

The task force can also develop funding mechanisms such as loans, grants, and tax credits for incentives that promote better practices and policies. The group has until 2023 to create a plan for the state.

The carbon bills are intended to work with energy goals that have already been established for Hawaii. They include lowering electricity consumption by 4,300 GWh by 2030 and having a 100% renewable energy portfolio standard by 2045. In March, Hawaii-based Kokua Aina Energy and the Texas-based project investment company Crescendo Power agreed to develop and fund distributed energy resource projects both in the state and on the US mainland.

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