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Gov. Josh Green urges climate action at U.N. following Maui fires

Governor Josh Green this week spoke at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit to promote urgency in advancing climate change mitigation strategies and preventing future disasters like the August fires on Maui that killed at least 97 people.

Kamehameha Schools students in attendance opened the panel session with an oli, later presenting the state’s second Voluntary Local Review (VLR) to attendees in ‘Olelo Hawai‘i.

The report, published earlier this year, provides a comprehensive overview of Hawai‘i’s progress and challenges toward meeting the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals designed to create a prosperous future for humanity.

“The leadership displayed by the students from Kamehameha Schools is nothing short of remarkable,” Green said. “Their dedication to sustainability and their role in presenting the second VLR in ‘Olelo Hawai‘i to the United Nations is a testament to the bright future of Hawai‘i and the global community.”

The overwhelming majority of Hawai‘i’s presence at the event, however, focused specifically on the importance of local leadership to achieve the goals by 2030. Under the backdrop of the West Maui fires, Green pleaded with other local leaders to act now — both for Hawai‘i and for themselves.

“The fires that came, they came to us in the form of a fire hurricane,” Green said. “Winds were 74 miles per hour on the tail end of a hurricane and swept through our town of Lahaina in 17 minutes. The speed, the heat — it destroyed our local communication systems, our water system and all of our above-ground power infrastructure. And so I can tell you, as an elected leader, I don’t want to see this happen to us again, or to any of you.”

Green continued, emphasizing that without significant global changes made, the frequency of such extreme weather events will only increase.

“We no longer anticipate the destructive events of climate change,” he said. “We are now fully enduring them as a people and a world.”

Green noted that Hawai‘i faced six fire disasters in August alone — the same amount the state had faced in 50 years, between 1953 and 2003.

Green also emphasized that the issue extends far beyond Hawai‘i, noting this summer saw major wildfires appear in Algeria, Greece and Canada, where smoke clouds blanketed approximately 70 million people thousands of miles away.

Additionally, from longer, stronger and more frequent droughts to melting ice caps and marine heat waves threatening extinction for keystone aquatic species, Green stressed that climate change is a global crisis.

“Let me say this very clearly — there’s no town or city or human community on Earth that is safe from this extreme weather that’s fueled by climate change, which is why we must deliver on these sustainable development goals,” Green said.”

In a commitment to move Hawai‘i closer to meeting U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the state in 2014 launched the Aloha+ Challenge, identifying six priority goals and local metrics, from increasing use of renewable energy to reducing solid waste and protecting watershed forests.

“The devastation on Maui has taught us that we have to urgently commit ourselves to a higher standard reflected in our Aloha+ Challenge and the United States SDGs. … And just let me say this — Ben Franklin said, ‘We all must hang together, or we will hang separately.’ That is true of climate change. We’re in this battle together. We fight for the future of humanity,” Green said.
Source: The Garden Island

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