Local Solutions to Global Challenges: Hawai‘i is Leading on Sustainability

Connors headshot

By Celeste Connors, Executive Director, Hawaii Green Growth.

Hawai‘i faces a unique set of challenges, including dependence on fossil fuel imports, limited natural resources, biodiversity loss, sea level rise, and vulnerability to catastrophic natural disasters. It is estimated that a category 4 hurricane making landfall in Waikiki would cause $20-$40 billion in direct economic losses to the State. Hawai‘i’s approach to reducing disaster risk and increasing community resilience is globally relevant, and shows how local leadership can drive progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Recognizing the need for coordinated solutions across sectors to support long-term development, Hawai‘i Green Growth was launched on the margins of the 2010 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu. Hawai‘i Green Growth is an innovative network-based public-private partnership that coordinates across government, non-governmental and cultural organizations, business, academia and philanthropy to catalyze collaboration, transformational action, and system-level change on Hawai‘i’s 2030 sustainability goals.

Hawai‘i’s approach to reducing disaster risk and increasing community resilience is globally relevant.

Inspired by initiatives such as the Micronesia Challenge, a commitment by regional leaders to conserve 30% marine and 20% terrestrial resources by 2020, and in collaboration with the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), Hawai‘i announced a visionary statewide commitment to sustainable development in 2014. The Aloha+ Challenge was launched by Hawai‘i Green Growth in partnership with the Governor, four county Mayors and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and was unanimously endorsed by the State Legislature.

The Aloha+ Challenge outlines six ambitious sustainability goals for 2030, including: clean energy, local food production, natural resource management, solid waste reduction, smart sustainable communities, and green workforce and education with real world impact. This effort builds on Hawai‘i’s track record and early leadership on sustainable development, with a world-class marine conservation area; eleven watershed partnerships statewide that include more than 60 public and private landowners and managers; multi-agency biosecurity programs; community-based sustainability initiatives around the state; and now an even more ambitious commitment to achieve 100% electricity from renewables by 2045.

The Aloha+ Challenge outlines six ambitious sustainability goals for 2030, including: clean energy, local food production, natural resource management, solid waste reduction, smart sustainable communities, and green workforce and education with real world impact.

The U.S. Department of State jointly announced the Aloha+ Challenge at the 2014 United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa as an example of US action and a model that could be replicated regionally and globally. The Aloha+ Challenge has since been recognized as a unique local partnership that supports economic growth, environmental stewardship, and community resilience. From the Seychelles to Malta and Chile to Dominica, leaders across the world have recognized the Hawai‘i model as a means for locally appropriate implementation of the SDGs.

Sub-regional partnerships and initiatives like Hawai‘i Green Growth and the Aloha+ Challenge not only have the ability to drive national and international sustainable development policy decisions, but local engagement is the only way we will achieve the SDGs at a global scale. To deliver we need to think and act locally. To ground Hawai‘i’s 2030 commitments in tangible data and metrics, Hawai‘i Green Growth and elected leaders announced the Aloha+ Challenge Dashboard, an online platform designed for decision makers and the public to track progress, increase communication, ensure transparency, and crucially, to provide accountability.

Hawai‘i Green Growth is developing a dynamic participatory campaign to achieve 2030 goals, and against the limited public funding for natural resources management, is working with diverse partners to catalyze large-scale investments in natural capital and ecosystem services that capture efficiencies and generate new revenue. These investment opportunities help communities become more resilient, reduce risk, and ensure the vibrancy of Hawai‘i’s colorful culture. For example, the Aloha+ Natural Capital Investment Partnership (NCIP) is a new initiative that would leverage public funding to mobilize private and philanthropic investments in freshwater.

Hawai‘i Green Growth…is working with diverse partners to catalyze large-scale investments in natural capital and ecosystem services that capture efficiencies and generate new revenue.

Given the very real threat of a catastrophic natural disaster such as a hurricane making landfall in Waikiki, Hawai‘i Green Growth is working with partners to support investments in resilient infrastructure and natural capital. Leveraging a $200 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood mitigation project, and in partnership with the GLISPA Island Resilience Challenge, Hawai‘i Green Growth is working with partners to launch the Ala Wai Community Resilience Challenge. This will connect local and world-class urban planners, engineers, and designers, and financial analysts and the insurance industry, with business groups, policy makers, and community leaders in the Ala Wai Watershed to design climate resilient infrastructure systems and services that support ecosystem restoration and other community benefits.

The GLISPA Island Resilience Challenge will be implemented in conjunction with nine other island states and territories around the world to rapidly build a project pipeline of resilient infrastructure and provide tangible examples of market-based solutions to sustainable development challenges. Islands can be laboratories for innovation. Given the size of islands’ populations and landmasses, integrated solutions, particularly at the water-energy-food nexus, can be more rapidly implemented and scaled.

As the host of the upcoming IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2016, Hawai’i has an opportunity to highlight local leadership and island solutions to achieve the sustainable development goals. The Aloha+ Challenge is a replicable model and framework for locally appropriate implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and can help to build a culture of sustainability for future generations globally.

For more information on Hawai’i Green Growth and the Aloha+ Challenge visit hawaiigreengrowth.org.