New county sustainability office created

A new Hawaii County agency has been formed to focus on safeguarding the island’s environment and combating climate change.

The Office of Sustainability, Climate, Equity and Resilience was created Wednesday with the signature of Mayor Mitch Roth after collaboration between the County Council, community advocates and others.


The newly formed office will help coordinate efforts across other county agencies to develop polices and programs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy, enhance energy efficiency, protect the island’s biodiversity, and fortify the county’s infrastructure against the impacts of climate change.

“In order to make sure that our keiki have a home where they can thrive for generations, we need to make sure that the anchors that keep them grounded here are preserved in perpetuity,” Roth said in a statement. “Those anchors are things like our environment, culture and natural resources — all of which will be the focus of our new OSCER. We know that too many of our kids are leaving, and we are committed to making it so that they only do so by choice and not by necessity.”

The office’s path to existence was not simple. The bill that formed it, Bill 48, went through four drafts before being passed, and did not do so unanimously. Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder and Kohala Councilwoman Cindy Evans voted against its passage earlier this month, with Evans citing procedural disagreements for her vote.

“The design and mission of OSCER is a new approach that has been specifically developed in response to a two-year process to identify gaps between plan and implementation in the areas of sustainability, climate change, equity and resilience,” said County Council Chairwoman Heather Kimball in a statement.

“The office will provide technical, policy, and resource support both internally and with our community partners, resulting in effective and coordinated progress,” she said.

The final version of the bill did not include any budget or staffing benchmarks for the new office.

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