Cityscape along Waikiki beach with polluted water in the foreground
Waikiki Sewage Climate change effects in Hawaii © TNC


'Build Back Better’ Would Invest In Jobs, Infrastructure And Nature

By Anthony Ching, Stephanie Dunbar-Co

From rising seas and coral bleaching to drought, heat, flooding and fire, Hawaii is acutely feeling the impacts of climate change on our communities, coastlines, agricultural lands and watershed forests. Yet, Hawaii is at the forefront of climate action. 

When the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Hawaii was the first state to rejoin. At the 2016 World Conservation Congress, Gov. David Ige pledged to conserve 30% of our lands and waters by 2030.

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative set a goal to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2045. And this year, Hawaii’s State Legislature was the first to declare a climate emergency.

In Hawaii, we focus locally to contribute globally. Hawaii plays an important leadership role by addressing our vulnerabilities and setting ambitious goals to address climate change, but we cannot do it alone. It will take national and international investment to minimize the worst effects of climate change and keep warming at 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report.

Leaders at COP26 — or the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties, currently happening in Glasgow, Scotland — are urging countries to address the climate emergency by “ratcheting-up” the speed and scale of emissions cuts and implementing innovative, nature-based solutions. The people of Hawaii overwhelmingly agree that now is the time for bold, comprehensive action.

The pending Build Back Better legislation before Congress is a once-in-a-generation bill that would invest in jobs, infrastructure and nature. The legislation proposes a 10-year commitment to combatting climate change, improving health care, increasing educational opportunities and fostering economic growth — all things Hawaii voters want.

The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra recently commissioned a poll that asked registered voters their opinions about proposals in the Build Back Better legislation and specific provisions related to climate change.

The poll found that 89% of Hawaii voters acknowledge climate change is happening, 83% say it is human caused, 85% view addressing climate change as a national priority, 77% want their member of Congress to support the plan, and more than seven-in-10 want to see bold action on climate change, even if it requires significant federal funding. Voters ranked restoring coral reefs and forests nearly as important as health care and affordable housing.

This data demonstrates that the people of Hawaii are ready for this bill to be passed. They want action on protecting coral reefs and forests. They want programs that can address natural, economic, community and cultural needs across Hawaii.

For example, our communities and natural resources would benefit from the proposed Civilian Climate Corps, which will build the next green workforce, strengthen community capacity for stewardship, and implement solutions to climate change impacts. The bill also contains investments in coastal and marine restoration and protection, conservation of endangered species in Hawaii, and climate resiliency and adaptation support for Native Hawaiian communities.

The time for the United States and the world to take climate action is now. Congress and the international community cannot lose this opportunity. With continuing local leadership, federal investment and international action, Hawaii will be well placed to thrive into the future as we collectively address the climate emergency.

Anthony Ching
Anthony Ching Director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra. © TNC
Stephanie Dunbar-Co
Stephanie Dunbar-Co Climate and protection manager for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra. © TNC
Anthony Ching Director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra. © TNC
Stephanie Dunbar-Co Climate and protection manager for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra. © TNC

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.