Honolulu Commits to Leading the Fight Against Climate Change

Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Natural Resources Defense Council today announced Honolulu will be among the 20 winning cities in the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. Honolulu’s selection reflects that their city leaders understand their biggest environmental challenges and want to solve them.

The Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge is a $70 million dollar program designed to accelerate 20 ambitious U.S. cities’ efforts to tackle climate change and promote a sustainable future for their residents. NRDC is proud to join with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Delivery Associates, as well as several other partners, to support the winning cities. The Challenge is focused on addressing the two main pollution-causing sectors in the majority of cities—buildings and transportation.

Cities and their surrounding areas play a pivotal role in climate action—together, they account for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of the world’s energy use.

New warnings by a U.N. scientific panel that we could see the worst impacts much sooner than expected has motivated Honolulu to take swift and bold action.

Honolulu’s selection confirms their commitment to keeping the promise of the Paris climate agreement, and it builds on a legacy of climate action. In recognition of the urgency to address climate action, the residents of Honolulu voted in 2017 to create an Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, and the City Council soon thereafter voted to hire staff to build out the office.

The city has now formulated a robust plan to cut climate change pollution, improve the health and well-being of their residents, increase economic opportunity and improve quality of life. In an effort to improve public transit options for commuters, the city will open the first modern rail transit in Hawaii by 2020, creating 11 miles of a new low-carbon mobility option along one of the state’s most congested highway corridors. Construction has already begun on the rail line’s western segments, including the Pearl Harbor area, as seen in the photo below.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

Honolulu is also taking significant steps to make sure that more and more residents and businesses have access to this new clean transportation option, by adopting new station area plans and increased zoning for 19 new rail transit stations. In addition, the city is trying to improve conditions for walking and biking, aiming to implement core components of their central city bike lane network by 2020.

Amanda Eaken

The city is also taking steps to tackle emissions from their existing buildings. Through the American Cities Climate Challenge, Honolulu has committed to adopting a benchmarking ordinance to increase energy efficiency in large commercial buildings, a policy that has catalyzed greenhouse gas reductions in cities like Chicago and Washington, DC.

Finally, the city will analyze the feasibility of a “Go Zone” for the highly congested Waikiki area that would aim to make travel by walking, biking and transit easier and more convenient, reducing vehicles in Honolulu’s densest neighborhood and decreasing the noise and pollution from traffic.

As an island state, Hawaii is on the front lines of climate change—and its residents are feeling its effects, from strengthened storms to sea level rise. Honolulu is striving to cut dangerous climate pollution in ways that also improve quality of life for the people who live there. And they are looking to share and scale the work with cities around the country, including organizing a climate summit in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting taking place in Honolulu next June. Together with the other climate leaders selected in the ACCC, they are committed to building a better future for our children, starting in their hometown.

About the Authors

Amanda Eaken

Director, Transportation & Climate

Carter Rubin

Mobility and Climate Advocate, Resilient Communities, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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