With its expansive beaches, forests, and cliffs, it’s no wonder that Hawaii supports strong environmental regulations.

But with climate change threatening large parts of the state, local politicians are beginning to ratchet up their sustainability commitments.

The legislature approved two of its strongest climate change measures yet on Tuesday: achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 and funding carbon capture methods that make that goal attainable, according to KITV.

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The bills are expected to be signed into law by Governor David Ige, Quartz reports.

The two House bills, HB 2182 and HB 1986, set the goal of “sequestering more atmospheric carbon and greenhouse gases than the State produces as quickly as practicable, but no later than 2045.”

Carbon neutrality means that a country, state, or organization is able to bring their net emissions to zero by investing in carbon removal efforts — planting trees, expanding wetlands, and developing carbon sucking technologies that store carbon.

The new measures complement bills passed last year that commit Hawaii to getting 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2045 and fueling all of its transportation with renewable sources of power within the same time frame.

A deadline decades down the line may not seem very challenging, but it’s actually the most ambitious state plan in the US.

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For example, New York and California, two of the most aggressive environmental regulators, have not yet committed to carbon neutrality.

“This is the biggest step forward on climate change any state has yet taken,” Hawaii representative Chris Lee said at a press conference for the bill.

It also puts Hawaii in league with countries such as Costa Rica and Norway that are leading the global fight against climate change, according to Quartz.  

While the bill sets accountability targets for the future, it has a clear vision at the outset.  

It sets aside funding for carbon capture methods, the expansion of green spaces, and the replenishment of wetlands, according to KITV. The bill also promotes the development of techniques for measuring how much carbon the state emits and stores.

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As the federal government retreats from climate change action, states and cities are stepping up around the US — and Hawaii is often leading the charge.

For example, Hawaii joined California to become the first two states to sign the Paris climate agreement and joined the lawsuit against the Trump administration over the repeal  of the Clean Power Plan, which was the signature environmental policy under the Obama administration.

Hawaii has both environmental and economic interests at stake.

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The state’s coral reefs are dying as the Pacific Ocean warms, rising sea levels are compromising coastlines and agriculture, and severe storms are causing enormous property damage.

If the two bills are signed into law, it could pave the way for even more ambitious measures that safeguard the state from climate change, according to KITV.

“We are excited for the passage of this bill because it demonstrates that combating climate change and protecting Hawaii’s environment promotes Hawaii’s economy and protects Hawaii’s taxpayers,” Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawaii, told KITV.

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Defend the Planet

Hawaii Pledges to Be Totally Carbon Neutral by 2045

By Joe McCarthy