Mayor Caldwell signs key climate bills and releases 2020 City Sustainability Report
News Release from City and County of Honolulu, December 23, 2020
HONOLULU – Mayor Kirk Caldwell took action on a broad package of climate change and economic recovery related bills today, signing Bill 2 (2020), Bill 58 (2020), and Bill 65 (2020) into law while simultaneously releasing the City’s 2020 Sustainability Report.
All three bills earned unanimous support at the Honolulu City Council at their final vote, and their passage cements a strong legacy of environmental progress over the Mayor’s second term.
“These bills, together, help streamline the permitting process and cut carbon emissions at the same time,” said Mayor Caldwell. “We are setting up O’ahu to take full advantage of a wave of expected new federal policies that will put people back to work installing solar, building electric vehicle infrastructure, and building greener more affordable housing in our community. President-Elect Biden has stated he’s going to focus on economic recovery and climate change, and these bills ensure we’re ready to partner on day one.”
Bill 2 (2020) represents the first update to parking regulations in the City’s Land Use Ordinance (LUO) in over 30 years, making the planning documents more user-friendly and reduces—and in some places eliminates—mandatory parking requirements for future development.
“The Bill supports the ongoing city commitment to more mobility choices for people. No longer should zoning be the final, and perhaps only decision-maker on how much parking should be provided; the private sector can, wants to, and should take a larger role in decision on this significant land use investment,” said Kathy Sokugawa, DPP acting director. “In addition, the bill provides more options to our businesses by updating loading requirements, while at the same time recognizing the emerging market demand for frequent, individualized quick deliveries. While the final version of the bill does not reflect all of the new proposals the department introduced, we are glad that the city council had the courage and patience to adopt a bill that will take us to a friendlier, more efficient city.”
Bill 58 (2020) streamlines the permitting procedures for residential clean energy projects and electric vehicle charging equipment, reducing the time and costs associated with installing solar systems in multi-family housing units and bringing battery systems into the on-line permitting process.
“Accelerating residential renewable energy and electric vehicles is a must-have for our economic diversification and a must-have for our planet,” said Mayor Caldwell. “Expedited permitting for clean energy projects like solar helps us reach our renewable energy goals, but also lowers the monthly cost of utility bills in townhouses and multi-family units which have seen limited solar projects to date.”
Bill 65 (2020) puts in ordinance for the first time aggressive City standards for climate change and sustainability. By law the City will now transition to a 100% renewable energy fleet by 2035, and achieve a carbon-neutral economy for Oahu by 2045. These standards are among the most aggressive in the nation and will guide important City infrastructure and budget decisions over the next decade.
“Bill 65 takes the City’s pledge to stay in the Paris climate agreement and turns it into tangible deliverables, concrete actions, and clear expected outcomes,” said Josh Stanbro, the City’s Chief Resilience Officer. “This lays the groundwork for a generation of green jobs, resilient infrastructure, and keeping money on-island and in our economy instead of importing expensive fossil fuel.”
Bill 65 will also result in cost savings for City taxpayers. It requires an energy and water use “benchmarking” initiative for City facilities over 10,000 square feet that is projected to result in up to $7,000,000 in savings for the City over the next decade while cutting energy use and emissions. Bill 65 also establishes a new framework at the City for departments and agencies to collaborate on climate adaptation projects like relocating or raising streets, rather than working in siloes with redundant costs and contracts.
“The City Council endorsed the O‘ahu Resilience Strategy and the passage of these three bills shows we’re committed to ensuring action and not just leaving the community vision on a shelf,” said Councilmember Tommy Waters. “We look forward to working with the incoming administration to continue to enact additional elements of the Strategy and make our island more sustainable and more economically resilient.”
The Oahu Resilience Strategy was released in May, 2019 and featured 44 specific actions to increase island resilience. Bill 2, Bill 58, and Bill 65 substantially advanced 5 of the 44 recommended actions (Resilience Actions 6, 8, 13, 21, and 27).
In coordination with the signing of the package of climate bills, the City also released the City’s Annual Sustainability Report for 2020. The yearly report provides transparency on sustainability indicators for City operations, including on-site renewable energy generation, fuel use, number of trees planted, waste diversion, transportation affordability, and other metrics. The 2020 report includes an update on the City’s progress towards implementing the Oʻahu Resilience Strategy.
The City has made improvements in key areas, but also reported worrying trends in others. Highlights included Honolulu’s jump from a “C” grade to a “B” over the past year in national rankings by the Carbon Disclosure Project, the most trusted national metric measuring peer cities on their environmental and climate policies and performance.
However, the 2020 Annual Sustainability Report also shows that Oahu’s overall greenhouse gas emissions—the prime driver of the climate crisis—increased 1.8 percent in 2018 island-wide compared to 2017, mainly due to emission increases in the transportation sector.
“I’m proud of the hard-earned gains we’ve made as an island community adding renewable energy and bringing our first electric bus into our fleet,” said Mayor Caldwell. “However, the 2020 Annual Sustainability Report shows that we need to do more—we can’t afford to get complacent as a community on COVID or on climate change. There’s just too much at stake.”
Bill 65 now requires the Resilience Office to track the City’s fuel, energy and water usage on a quarterly basis instead of the prior annual report. To promote increased transparency, the Resilience Office has already published the quarterly data on a publicly-accessible dashboard, which can be viewed at: https://resilientoahu.org/municipal-operations-energy-dashboard
The full 2020 Annual Sustainability Report is available to read at: www.resilientoahu.org/sustainability-report.