LIHU‘E — Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green spoke at the United Nations headquarters this week to highlight the state’s successes in environmental and housing goals. The newly released report he referenced, however, tells a far bleaker story.
Green served as a keynote speaker on Wednesday at the U.N.’s sixth Local and Regional Governments Forum to present Hawai‘i’s second Voluntary Local Review, a voluntary analysis of the state’s progress toward a series of U.N.-established objectives, including eliminating poverty and hunger, providing quality education and initiating significant climate action by 2030.
Early in his presentation, Green touted Hawai‘i’s environmental successes — the review shows the state is on track to meet both a 70 percent renewable energy portfolio and electricity savings of 4,300 by the end of the decade.
“We try to lead on energy and climate,” Green said. “We were the first state to mandate 100 percent renewable energy for electricity. It’s an opportunity as a small state with technically a small footprint — but we do punch above our weight a little bit because of our position in the Pacific.”
However, the state’s annual Voluntary Local Review showed the state is not meeting all of its climate goals. While Hawai‘i is committed to reducing petroleum usage to 165 million gallons per year, data shows that 472 million gallons were used in 2022, suggesting the state is not on track to meet this goal.
Green also praised Hawai‘i’s handling of its housing crisis, explaining to forum participants how the concept of ‘ohana guides the state’s programs.
“In our state, we are using this sense of village and community to build villages to give people housing so that they don’t suffer on the streets,” he said. “They tend to do very well when they are given shelter — as we all know, their costs come down, their suffering comes down, so does addiction. So, it’s another example for us to be able to work on the these areas and the (Sustainable Development Goals) quite directly, and so we’re very happy to do that.”
However, the review shows the state is not on track to meet its affordable housing goals even with these programs in place. According to the review, the average resident spends between 49 and 55 percent of income on housing and transportation, as the housing crisis has only grown more severe from 2015 to 2021.
The review does note an upward trend in economic prosperity, though. From 2014 to 2020, the percentage of Hawai‘i households below the Self-Sufficiency Standard — a measure of income adequacy — decreased from 45.5 percent to 34.7 percent.
Green continued, turning his focus to food security and explaining to forum participants how Hawai‘i’s self-sufficient past guides its goals for the future.
“In the old days — decades, generations and even centuries ago — thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people lived in Hawai‘i and had a sustainable culture for food, and that’s something we still recognize,” he said.
Local food production goals, however, have not been recognized. While Hawai‘i announced in 2008 plans to double food production by 2030, current estimates suggest the state is not on track to meet this goal. Exact numbers on the state’s food production is unclear, as the report notes a lack of funding for agricultural statisticians.
Additionally, while the report showed a 4 percent increase in the number of Hawai‘i farms between 2012 and 2017, food insecurity spiked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing from 11.2 percent to 16.8 percent, according to a 2021 study.
While Green presented a positive spin on Hawai‘i’s efforts toward reaching the U.N.’s sustainability goals, students at Kapalama Middle School, a Kamehamea School in Honolulu, took a more dire tone for their opening statement of the review.
“We cannot put off changing things any longer,” they wrote. “We refuse to stand idle when 2030 looms closer and closer. …We only have one Island Earth — let us do our best to take care of it and each other. We are one species, with one planet, one chance.”
The 2023 Hawai‘i Voluntary Local Review can be read at alohachallenge.hawaii.gov/documents/5558742d45774f50914a86fd00572cfc/explore
Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or email@example.com.
Source: The Garden Island