REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR – HONOLULU – President Barack Obama has appointed Gov. Neil Abercrombie to serve on the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, the White House announced today. Co-chaired by Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director David Agnew and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, the task force consists of a select group of governors, mayors and other leaders who will develop recommendations on how the federal government can better support local preparedness and resilience-building efforts.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on this task force, which will allow the State of Hawaii to have a strong voice in the national discussion on addressing the impacts of climate change,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “As the only island state in nation, Hawaii is unquestionably vulnerable to changes in climate such as rising temperatures, droughts, flooding, sea level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification.”
In conjunction with the announcement, Gov. Abercrombie introduced State Sustainability Coordinator Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, recently appointed by the Governor to the newly created position. Thiel is charged with coordinating across departments and with counties, federal agencies, and community partners to support progress on Hawaii’s sustainability goals. She has been working to care for Hawaii’s environment and communities for over a decade, most recently with the interagency Hawaii Invasive Species Council. She earned her master’s in urban and regional planning as an East-West Center Fellow with a focus on implementing sustainability plans.
“The task force established by President Obama gives Hawaii a direct line to provide recommendations on removing barriers to federal resources, identifying opportunities for collaboration, and developing tools to better support our unique needs and local efforts,” Thiel said. “Gov. Abercrombie’s congressional experience, particularly on the Armed Forces Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, as well as a senior member on the Natural Resources Committee, was cited as a factor in his selection, along with his ability to provide insight into the needs of the Asia-Pacific region.”
In September, Hawaii was the first sub-national government to sign onto the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, joining other islands and nations in making bold commitments to reduce carbon emissions and invest in adaptation.
William J. Aila Jr., chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, said: “Hawaii is especially vulnerable but we have made significant commitments toward mitigation and investments in adaptation. We know that our weather will be drier, and managing and protecting our native forests and watersheds is the best investments in capturing and delivering greater water quantity and quality. The state’s Rain Follows the Forest Watershed Initiative protects this vital resource needed for our survival.”
State Office of Planning Director Jesse Souki added: “Hawaii is the only state to have adopted both a climate change mitigation and adaptation policy. In 2012, Gov. Abercrombie signed Act 286, codifying into law the state’s Climate Change Adaptation Priority Guidelines, which will help us to build resiliency in agriculture, conservation lands, coastal and marine areas, education, health, transportation, and the built environment.
“We also recently updated the Ocean Resources Management Plan, which includes two priority management measures that address climate change impacts to marine resources and coastal areas. The State of Hawaii has approximately 1,052 miles of coastline with a vast majority of its communities located on or near coastal areas that may be impacted by sea-level rise.”
President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience will convene for the first time as early as next month in Washington, D.C., with its recommendations to the President expected within one year.
In June 2013, as part of his Climate Action Plan, President Obama called for the establishment of a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal leaders to advise on key actions the federal government can take to better support local preparedness and resilience-building efforts.