Maui News

Study: Hawai‘i on Target to Beat 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Goal

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File photo by Wendy Osher.

Hawai‘i is making progress to mitigate the effects of climate change, according to findings in the Hawai‘i Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report for 2016, released today. The report contains the most recent data released by the Hawai‘i Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch relating to health and the environment in the Hawaiian Islands.

Projections in the report indicate Hawai‘i is on target to meet the state’s goal established by the legislature in 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to be equal to or below 1990 levels.

The report was prepared by ICF, a global consulting and digital services provider, and the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization for the Department of Health.


“Because of our ambitious goals and the collective actions as a state to address climate change, Hawai‘i is on target to meet its statewide greenhouse gas emission milestones this year. For the next few years, we will track and report our progress as we continue to move rapidly to decarbonize our economy, especially in our transportation and power sectors—to meet our 2045 clean energy goals,” said Gov. Ige.

“Hawai‘i remains on the right path to mitigate the effects of climate change, and we must continue to stay on track,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, health director. “The Department of Health requires greenhouse gas emission caps for the largest stationary sources of air pollution, and major sources of greenhouse gas emissions are taking responsibility for implementing the reductions. Everyone must do their part to continue these efforts.”

The state met its greenhouse gas emission limit of 10.84 million metric tons (MMT) in 2016, and statewide greenhouse gas emission projections of 8.37 MMT and 6.43 MMT for 2020 and 2025, respectively, indicate Hawaiʻi is on target to meet its statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit this year, according to the DOH. This finding will be reassessed and updated in next year’s report.


Data for 2016 on greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide, combined with data on “sinks” that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, were captured in the report. Sinks include such carbon offset activities as reforestation and urban trees. The report provides a number of key findings:

  • The energy sector makes up the majority—87 percent—of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Approximately 51 percent of the energy sector emissions are from transportation, excluding international bunker fuel, and 46 percent are from stationary combustion.
  • The decrease in transportation emissions, about 33 percent from 2007 to 2016, was primarily the result of decreases in domestic marine, ground transportation, and military nonaviation emissions. The 2007 base year is when Hawai‘i Act 234 passed for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Also, in 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed requiring new fuel economy standards for all passenger vehicles and light trucks.
  • Stationary combustion emissions from electrical power plants and petroleum refineries decreased by about 12 percent over the six-year period from 2010 to 2016. Operating year 2010 was used as a baseline for establishing state rules specifying greenhouse gas emission caps for large stationary sources.
  • Industrial processes and product use, which includes emissions from substitution of ozone depleting substances, electrical transmission and distribution, and cement production accounted for 4 percent of the state’s emissions in 2016.
  • Agriculture, forestry, and other land use, which included emissions and sinks from agricultural activities, land use, changes in land use, and land management practices made up 6 percent of the statewide emissions in 2016.
  • Waste, including emissions from waste management and treatment activities such as landfills, composting, and wastewater treatment, accounted for 4 percent of statewide emissions in 2016.

The DOH says these positive trends are expected to continue, “primarily because of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative,” whose goal is to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

  • Total state emissions are projected to decrease largely because of the combined decrease in emissions from electric power plants and petroleum refineries.
  • Electric utilities, specifically, are seeking to meet the state’s “renewable portfolio standard” mandates which require increasing use of renewable energy sources to generate electricity until Hawai‘i is no longer dependent on fossil fuels and uses 100 percent of renewable energy sources by 2045.
  • The state’s “energy efficiency portfolio standard” target mandates a reduction in energy use—a decrease of 4,300 gigawatt-hours of electricity use by 2030. Based on the average efficiency of fossil fuel electricity generation in Hawai‘i, this would be equivalent to about 3.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas removed.

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