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Climate change and sustainability focus of conference and legislation

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

So far this year, the Maui County Council has enacted 52 ordinances, adopted 179 resolutions, issued 134 committee reports and formally received 454 communications from county officials, covering an array of issues affecting Lanai, Maui and Molokai residents.

Amid all the topics, a common thread has been the council’s concentrated effort to address climate change and promote environmental sustainability. On Jan. 2, the first day of the 2019-21 term, the council created its standing committees in a structure designed to further the objectives of the Maui County General Plan 2030, as expressed in the Countywide Policy Plan.

“Protect the Natural Environment” is the first goal listed in the Countywide Policy Plan. Page 41 of the plan includes this inspiring statement:

“From the upland forests to the coral reefs, the islands of Maui County are a portrait of a rare and amazing natural world. Protection of the natural environment — including the ecological systems therein — is of vital importance.”

By Resolution 19-98, adopted on May 17, the council authorized the County of Maui’s membership in the County Climate Coalition, a project of the Climate Reality Project, and affirmed the county’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement. At the same meeting, the council passed on first reading the county’s fiscal year 2020 budget, which included new investments in environmental protection.

Committee Report 19-49 said the budget was intended to preserve “natural resources, the islands’ identity and cultural assets.” The budget, which took effect July 1, includes millions of dollars for coral reef protection, watershed management, invasive special containment and environmental grants.

Maui County hosted the 2019 Hawaii Association of Counties’ annual conference June 9-12. The conference proved historic, with more than 50 presenters on “Hot Topics in Sustainability” — including state Speaker of the House Scott Saiki and Lt. Gov. Josh Green — and the launch of the Hawaii chapter of the Climate Reality Project.

I was honored to have all nine Maui County Council members and many members of the Victorino administration play prominent roles, as we were able to share news on some of our initiatives with other counties’ officials. And we benefited from knowledge shared by an amazing group of environmental professionals, including:

• Professor Chip Fletcher, vice-chair of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission.

• Erin Hughey, director of global operations for Pacific Disaster Center.

• Alyssa Johl, legal counsel with the Center for Climate Integrity.

• Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation.

• Charlotte O’Brien, executive director of Food Security Hawaii.

• Tara Owens, coastal processes and hazards specialist, University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program.

• Rita Ryan, Hawaii leader of 350.org.

• Josh Stanbro, executive director of the Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency.

• James Strickland III, project manager of Hui O Ka Wai Ola.

• Benjamin Trevino, sustainability planner for Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

It’s hard to envision a more esteemed roster. Yet, it was a youth panel that provided the most memorable and motivating moments of the conference according to many attendees.

Speaking passionately and knowledgeably, four current or recent high school students regaled the conference with stories on how climate change is impacting their dreams and ambitions. HSAC is grateful to Kawika Ke Koa Pegram of Waipahu High School, Annika Berezney of Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Brandon Mendoza of Moanalua High School and Olivia Stoetzer of St. of Andrew’s Priory for their provocative call to action.

We’re also thankful for the positive feedback we received from conferees. For example, Honolulu City Council Member Ron Menor provided a nine-page report, concluding that “HSAC was well attended by both state and city and county officials and continues to provide a needed and convenient platform for the Hawaii counties to gather and exchange information, discuss solutions to shared concerns, and to hear from experts on external developments that may have an impact on the Islands.”

Continuing the youth focus, the council on Sept. 20 adopted Resolution 19-157, stating that “environmental leadership by Maui County’s young people gives hope and inspiration to all generations” and commending “the efforts of Maui County residents to highlight climate change, especially through participation in the Global Climate Strike.”

As HSAC treasurer, I was proud to provide a report on the conference last month to my colleagues on the HSAC executive committee. The other counties expressed gratitude for the hospitality, networking opportunities and, most important, extensive educational content provided by Maui County. Previous HSAC President Valerie Poindexter called it “the best conference ever.”

I also reported HSAC has a balance of more than $200,000 after accounting for conference income. For more information, please go to mauicounty.us/HSAC-2019.

* Kelly King is chair of the Maui County Council. She holds the council seat for the South Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.