U.S. mayors lead effort in climate protection
Hawaii is hosting a series of talks this week between the 16 nations that represent major economies as they debate their role on global climate change. This is an important step for the international community toward reaching a consensus on proper environmental policy, but it is also important to note that the U.S. Conference of Mayors reached this point almost three years ago.
To date, 780 mayors have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, drafted by Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle, that commits their cities to carbon emissions reductions comparable to the Kyoto Protocol. I was among the first to sign the agreement in 2005 and continue to work toward this commitment for climate protection and sustainability through our 21st Century Ahupua'a Plan that we unveiled last year (see www.honolulu.gov/mayor).
I recently returned from the U.S. Conference of Mayors 76th winter meeting in Washington, D.C., and am happy to report that the U.S. mayors remain at the forefront of our country's effort to combat climate change and dependency on imported oil.
A new $10 billion block grant commitment has been a top priority of the U.S. mayors and was part of our 10-point plan presented to Congress last year. It is a tribute to the effectiveness of the U.S. mayors that this new city block grant was signed into law at the end of last year by President Bush. This federal partnership will allow cities to move more rapidly to create a green economy, green-collar career paths and solutions for the local production of alternative energy.
For Honolulu the impact of global warming could be disastrous, and our existing dependency on fossil fuels is unacceptable. We have many reasons to be more concerned than most, but now have the opportunity to use our creativity and ingenuity to find better ways to generate and conserve energy. As an island community with finite capacities, we have had to face many environmental challenges faster than in some other cities. Our issues of transportation, energy, waste disposal and housing have all reached critical levels. But it is important that we find comprehensive and lasting solutions that make sense as integrated systems. We can't afford stand-alone, quick fixes to complex problems that simply push the finding of real solutions to future leaders. It is our responsibility to do it right ... right now.
I remain positive and agree with those who have suggested that Hawaii could become the world leader in creating solutions to these universal environmental puzzles and become a model for a sustainable future. It is vital that our community reaches a shared vision for the type of community we want to build. Just as ancient Polynesian navigators were trained to visualize the island they were sailing to, we need to visualize the future we want to live in. How else can we know where we're going? If the state, city and federal governments can work together toward these common goals we can make progress quickly, and provide the type of future for our island home that our following generations will thank us for.
Mufi Hannemann is mayor of Honolulu.