Climate Action Planning: Oahu

The City and County of Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency is hosting community climate action planning gatherings all around the island. The gatherings are a terrific example of how to engage the public – meaning how to educate us (the public) while learning from us at the same time. 

Legend for Climate Action Activity

On December 12th, about 50 people (including two elected officials – Council Member Menor and State Representative-Elect Perruso), plus at least 10 staff members, gathered in a high school cafeteria for a 90-minute session. The staff first gave us a “leveling” presentation, very brief but valuable to make sure we were all using the same language about the same issue. Our focus was not sustainability or resilience – which people find easier to think about, often. It was about reducing human impacts on climate that are hurting the planet – and how to do that in the context of Oahu – a pretty darned isolated island.

The staff used a cooperative engagement process it developed for encouraging public participation to think through available climate impact mitigation choices. The options we could choose to help get Oahu to a 2045 carbon-neutral goal included: building efficiency, solar energy on rooftops and in solar farms, wind energy on- and off-shore, some biofuel options, electric and hybrid vehicles, marine fuel options, bus/walk/bike/rail options, zero waste, and carbon offsets. 

As we choose among the options, a facilitator and our peers helped us think through unintended consequences:

  • our group was interested to learn that off-shore wind can be built, but there are some Native concerns about machinery in the ocean that sustains us
  • electric vehicles are gaining in popularity as the investment in infrastructure expands. Eventually, with solar energy, they will be incredibility cheap to use
  • we are hopeful for increased bus routes and bus availability, especially with electric buses making that transport cleaner with solar energy
  • waste burning is considered renewable (!) but our group doesn’t consider it clean, so we wanted zero waste ASAP and clean renewable fuels
  • our group was big-time in favor of tree cover, especially Native Hawaiian trees, but they take a long time to swing into action, so we can’t only plant trees

We ended the night with a better, deeper understanding of the complexities of choices and the challenges to leaders to make choices that are just/fair for all our community. Here is what I think the leaders did really well to make this evening work:

  • A clear time frame they honored
  • Varying sources of information – staff, an elected official, a brief video, a brief powerpoint, and discussions during the group exercise
  • Use of a thoughtful, well-designed visual guide created for Oahu but relevant to similar discussions across the country 
  • Great staff teamwork that shared authority and knew when to step in or step out
  • A genuinely thoughtful and positive, hopeful approach to their work
  • Appreciation for all who came out for the experience

Bravo Resilient Oahu! And Mahalo. 

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