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Fellows Spotlight
Climate Coalition’s Commitment to Action
April 10, 2024
Written by: Jeff Mikulina
Photo of photovoltaic panels

Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Executive Collaborative Climate Coalition

Greek mathematician Archimedes famously talked about moving something much bigger than ourselves with a long enough lever and the right fulcrum. On climate solutions, Hawaiʻi is that fulcrum, and we can help move the world.

Hawai‘i is uniquely positioned to contribute solutions to this global challenge. Just as we saw with the broad adoption of Hawai‘i’s 100% renewable energy law nationwide, our actions in Hawai‘i can have outsized influence on how the nation and world respond to the climate crisis.

But we face a time-bound challenge—the faster we act on climate, the greater our opportunity to create a resilient and thriving future. Transforming at the speed and scale necessary to decarbonize our economy while building our resiliency requires a fresh approach and a new kind of collaboration. It was exactly this thinking that launched the Climate Coalition about two years ago. As an initiative of the Hawai‘i Executive Collaboration, the Coalition brings together leaders from multiple sectors—business, government, nonprofit, education—to collectively address the systemic barriers that impede an effective climate response while tackling their own role in our climate challenge. Co-chaired by longtime business leader Chris Benjamin and widely respected climate professor Dr. Chip Fletcher, the Coalition is creating a climate for change in Hawai‘i.

Image of HEC Climate Coalition 42 Climate Pledge Signers

Graphic courtesy Hawai‘i Executive Collaborative Climate Coalition

It starts with the Coalition’s Climate Pledge. The Pledge is a public demonstration of an organization’s commitment to climate action. To date, nearly 45 leading local organizations—from Hawaiian Airlines to Catholic Charities Hawai‘i to ʻIolani School—have signed the Pledge (and you can, too). The Pledge outlines the Coalition’s two-prong approach to climate engagement, what we call “Climate In” and “Climate Out” (tip of the hat to Omidyar Fellow Dawn Lippert for this framing).

Climate In focuses on how Coalition partners can develop or expand their internal organizational climate initiatives, including measuring and reducing their own carbon emissions and building resilience. We assist organizations by providing them with guidance documents and tools to help them characterize their carbon emissions, and then—working with local experts—help them develop carbon reduction goals and plans to achieve them. To date, 15 local companies have inventoried their baseline carbon emissions, and many have set reduction targets.

Climate Out seeks to engage Coalition partners in working outside their organizations to facilitate broader climate progress. Myriad organizations are working on climate, but they face obstacles that the Coalition can break through, thanks in large part to our multi-sector partnership, influence, and collaborative approach. This collective work will advance systemic solutions to climate change through policy advocacy, particularly through brave conversations on “sticky” climate issues. We hope to build a stronger sense of shared understanding of our challenges and solutions, find common ground, and identify workable policy pathways forward that did not exist previously.

We’ve already seen success: during the 2023 legislative session, Coalition partners came together to support a successful $50 million appropriation to Hawai‘i’s Green Bank to support low-interest loans for lower income families. We’re currently supporting two climate measures at the state legislature, and we’re hosting facilitated “deep dive” dialogs among partners on climate issues where easy solutions are elusive.

But our collective climate work has only just begun. Coalition partners will be meeting regularly for educational brown bags, policy planning, and resilience discussions. In 2024, we’re launching a climate recognition program to spotlight organizations and individuals who are going above and beyond to accelerate climate action in Hawai‘i.

The timing of this initiative is critical. Last year wasn’t just the hottest year in recorded history, it was literally off the charts. Leaders across Hawai‘i are recognizing the severity of climate change and its impact on our island home—particularly on our most vulnerable residents. We’ve seen its devastating impacts—from homes falling into the ocean to freak floods to unstoppable climate fires.

But out of this, Hawai‘i has tremendous opportunity to lead. By leveraging our influence and collective capacities to build a foundation on which climate initiatives can succeed, the Climate Coalition is helping to ensure an equitable transition to a climate-resilient economy, society, and environment for all Hawaiʻi’s people. In doing so, we can inspire and model the collaboration needed to move the globe on climate solutions.

Photo of Agrivoltaic research site that combines solar with farming.
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