Strengthening multi-level collaboration to address the climate crisis
By Councilmember Kelly Takaya King
Last month, I was honored to serve as a delegate to the annual United Nations Climate Conference, also known as the Conference of Parties (COP). This year marked the 27th COP held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where I attended on behalf of ICLEI USA—an organization of local government leaders dedicated to sustainability and addressing the climate crisis.
Serving on the ICLEI USA board of directors has reinvigorated my belief in the importance of local government.
When attending COP26 last year in Glasgow, Scotland, there was much on the line. It was a meeting determined by the Paris Climate Agreements to discuss plans to keep global warming below 1.5-degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, and to implement solutions to achieve that goal.
There were presidents, prime ministers, and cabinet members present from almost 200 countries. These group of global leaders produced an agreement called the “Glasgow Climate Pact,” however, there was broad frustration that the pact was insufficient.
“Unfortunately, the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “It is time to go into emergency mode or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero,” he said.
My takeaway is this outcome makes local-level climate action even more important. While some doubt what is possible and are fearful of change, legislation is an opportunity to set goals and commit to progress that will address our county’s needs for climate action, resilience, and environmental protection.
As I near the end of my term as a county councilmember, I look back at the council’s accomplishments to address the climate crisis with pride.
When I returned to COP this year, I shared how a small county in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is leading climate action to the global stage through local legislation. By strengthening ties with municipalities around the globe, we can share our successes while learning from the efforts of others.
I look forward to presenting Maui County’s accomplishments in promoting biodiversity at the upcoming COP15 in Montreal next month. I plan to share legislation passed by the council including Ordinance 5421 to protect and restore wetlands, Ordinance 5084 to prohibit environmentally harmful plastics, Ordinance 5242 to prohibit pesticides, and actions taken to conserve our precious and diverse wildlife and promote energy-efficient environment.
Through discussions with national and global organizations, we can showcase how local policies can be expanded for a broader impact, and we can learn about and advocate for funding to meet our community’s needs for climate action.
The Climate Action, Resilience, and Environment Committee collaborated with our sister counties on Ordinance 5306 to prohibit chemical sunscreen, Ordinance 5355 for energy benchmarking, and Ordinance 5434 to regulate outdoor lighting with support from the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and the ICLEI global biodiversity leader.
While this highlights the importance of local actions, I believe it is also a metaphor. In life and work, we are often faced with challenges that seem insurmountable and can feel like we are the only ones who care.
It may feel like those who we look to for leadership have abandoned the post but in times like these, it is important to stand strong and rise to help however we can.
I began a long career in activism by raising my hand and volunteering when others would not. Regardless of your background, by taking that first step, you can help to build community and cause change that will turn ripples into waves.
It has been my honor to serve as your councilmember, and I look forward to continuing to work with all levels of government and non-profit agencies to advance climate action, equity and justice.
For more information on Councilmember King’s COP27 experience, visit https://vimeo.com/776603744 or attend her virtual presentation Dec. 19, sponsored by the Hawaii Climate and Environmental Coalition.
* Kelly Takaya King is the Chair of the Climate Action, Resilience, and Environment Committee. She holds the County Council seat for the South Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Visit mauicounty.us for more information.