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By 2020, Hawaii was supposed to be a much more sustainable place. What happened?

By 2020, Hawaii was supposed to be a much more sustainable place. What happened?

Hawaii News Now, March 8, 2018

By Ashley Nagaoka, Reporter

Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan cover

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state is struggling to meet its own sustainability goals and has largely ignored parts of its own plan over the last decade, a new report concludes.

In 2005, the state Legislature created a task force to develop a statewide sustainability plan through 2050 and beyond.

Three years later, the state auditor released the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, which set up nine benchmarks to achieve by the year 2020:

  1. Increase affordable housing opportunities for households up to 140 percent of median income
  2. Strengthen public education
  3. Reduce reliance on fossil (carbon-based) fuels
  4. Increase recycling, reuse, and waste reduction strategies
  5. Develop a more diverse and resilient economy
  6. Create a sustainability ethic
  7. Increase production and consumption of local foods and products, particularly agriculture
  8. Provide access to long-term and elderly housing
  9. Preserve and perpetuate kanaka maoli and island cultural values

This month, the state auditor released an updated report, looking at the state’s progress over the last decade.

And the takeaway: The state has a lot of work left to do.

“Through the course of the past 10 years, the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan was disregarded,” the auditor’s updated report said. “Hawaii continues to struggle with these same issues.”

The report also found that recommendations and next steps provided to help move Hawaii in the right direction “were either only partially implemented or not implemented at all.”

“With the current budget from the governor, there’s no added staff, there’s zero resources for that one individual to be able to plan for state sustainability.”
– State Rep. Ryan Yamane

Some lawmakers say they were disappointed — but not surprised — with the findings.

“The word ‘sustainability’ has been used as a tag term for people’s elections and reelections,” said State Rep. Ryan Yamane, who served as vice chairman of the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force. “However, there hasn’t been a move forward to legitimately ingrain it in what we do.”

One key area of concern in the report is water consumption.

The report says dozens of the county-run public water systems and large capacity public water systems “may be operating with inefficiencies, resulting in a loss of water, increasing energy costs, and potential loss of revenue.”

Yamane said he’s worried about water reserves, too.

“There’s only so much water we have for all of us and at some point we have to start looking at our usage,” Yamane said. “We don’t want to be faced with drought and mandatory restrictions like we see in California and across the United States.”

The report also pointed out that the state lacked a government office to implement and oversee statewide sustainability plans.

The state only employs one sustainability coordinator.

“With the current budget from the governor, there’s no added staff, there’s zero resources for that one individual to be able to plan for state sustainability,” said Yamane, adding that he’s introduced legislation this session to develop a permanent agency.