The information below summarizes actions taken by Hawaii to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Hawaii has not yet adopted an official statewide adaptation plan, however, the state legislature has called for adaptation planning and state agencies have undertaken other efforts to assess climate vulnerabilities and identify adaptation strategies, described here.
On June 9, 2014, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed House Bill 1714 (now Act 83) establishing an Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee charged with developing a sea-level rise vulnerability and adaptation report addressing statewide impacts through 2050. In 2017, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 559 that renamed the Adaptation Committee as the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission (“Commission”). The Commission is charged with developing vulnerability and adaptation reports on the effects of sea-level rise and leading the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with goals set out in the Paris Agreement. In addition to setting goals and strategies for both mitigation and adaptation, the Commission is charged with identifying climate vulnerabilities across all sectors in Hawaii; assessing existing efforts and capacity of existing resources to address goals; and tracking and reporting on implementation progress.
Vulnerability Assessment and Planning
In December 2017, the Commission released the Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report. This report represents the first state-wide vulnerability assessment for sea-level rise hazards in Hawaii and provides statewide adaptation recommendations to reduce Hawaii’s exposure to sea-level rise and to increase the state’s resilience to coastal hazards.
State Agency Actions
State agencies have also been working to prepare for climate impacts to specific sectors:
State Legislative Actions
The state legislature has also adopted adaptation priorities to guide adaptation activities at the state level. In July 2012, the Hawaii legislature passed SB 2745/HB 2483, which sets climate change adaptation priority guidelines for integrating climate adaptation into statewide planning processes. The law establishes the following adaptation priorities: exploring adaptation strategies that moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities in response to actual or expected climate change impacts to the natural and built environments; promoting sector resilience (in areas such as water, roads, airports, and public health) by encouraging the identification of climate change threats, assessment of potential consequences, and evaluation of adaptation options; using adaptive management approaches; and encouraging planning and management of natural and built environments that consider climate change.
The state legislature has also enacted laws to provide financial resources to support adaptation efforts. In 2015, the legislature passed House Bill 444 — An Act Relating to Beach Protection — to allocate $3,000,000 of hotel tax revenues to a special fund supporting the development and implementation of plans to slow the degradation of Hawaii’s beaches; beach restoration and conservation efforts; the coordination of activities across counties; and the formation of public-private partnerships. The legislation allows the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to include studies about the effects of sea-level rise when developing beach conservation plans. In 2010, through Hawaii Act 73, the state legislature also established the “environmental response, energy, and food security tax,” otherwise known as the “barrel tax,” to provide resources for addressing the effects of climate change in the state. Act 73 increased the per-barrel tax on petroleum products and created a fund for clean energy, agriculture, and adaptation initiatives in Hawaii.
In July 2021, the state passed two related laws to increase sea-level rise resilience in Hawaii. The first, Act 178 (House Bill 243), directs the state’s agencies to collaborate toward identifying state facilities that are vulnerable to sea-level rise, flooding, and natural hazards. Act 178 also requires agencies to assess options to mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise to these facilities. The second, Act 179 (House Bill 474), requires that sellers of real estate located in areas at risk of sea-level rise disclose this information to potential buyers. Policymakers passed the law to ensure that prospective buyers are aware of future risks to property related to sea-level rise. The law expanded Hawaii's real estate disclosure requirements to also mandate that a seller disclose where property falls within a “sea-level rise exposure area,” as determined by the Commission's most recent Hawaii Sea-Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report.
With a Senate Concurrent Resolution (S.C.R. 44) later in July 2021, Hawaii was the first U.S. state to declare an official "climate emergency." Building on the momentum of S.C.R. 44, on July 19, 2021, the Hawaii Commission released a “statement” or guidance on climate-related decisionmaking and investments for the state. In particular, the statement addresses the ways in which federal funding — such as from the American Jobs Plan, the federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, and the Energy Act of 2020 — should be spent to combat the climate crisis, create good-paying jobs, support climate adaptation and resilience, and foster a climate-ready Hawaii.
Within this statement, the Commission announced four Climate Ready Priorities around which investment and decisionmaking should be centered:
In the statement, the Commission suggests specific initiatives, strategies, and projects to attain each priority. The statement also includes examples of current state and local climate actions already supporting each priority.
To aid local and private sector adaptation efforts, the state has developed an Adaptation Portal to provide information to the public about the impacts of climate change, and adaptation strategies and tools.
This page highlights the actions Hawaii is taking to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed and adopted to help Hawaii prepare for the impacts of climate change, are featured in the chart below.
The Georgetown Climate Center’s State Adaptation Progress Tracker, which tracks the progress states are making in preparing for the impacts of climate change, was supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
(Research last updated: August 27, 2021).
|Resource Name||Resource Type||Date|
|Hawaii Act 179 (Senate Bill 474): Relating to Real Property Transactions||Law and Governance||July 2, 2021|
|Hawaii Act 178 (House Bill 243): Relating to Sea-Level Rise Adaptation||Law and Governance||July 2, 2021|
|HI SB 559: Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission||Law and Governance||June 1, 2017|
|Hawaii HB 444 - An Act Relating to Beach Protection: Transient Accommodations Tax; Special Land and Development Fun; Appropriation”||Law and Governance||July 1, 2015|
|Hawaii Climate Adaptation Initiative Act (HB 1714, Act 83)||Law and Governance||June 9, 2014|
|Hawaii Act 286 - Climate Change Adaptation Priority Guidelines (HI SB 2745/HB 2483)||Law and Governance||July 9, 2012|
|Hawaii Act 73: Environmental response, energy and food security tax||Law and Governance||April 29, 2010|
|Resource Name||Sector(s) Covered||Date|
|Hawaii Ocean Resources Management Plan||Biodiversity and ecosystems, Coastal, Land management and conservation, Oceans||July 2013|
|Ola Oahu Resilience Strategy||May 31, 2019|
|Kaua’i Shoreline Setback Ordinance (No. 979, Bill 2461, 2014)||December 5, 2014|
|Facing Our Future: Adaptive Planning for Sea Level Rise in Maui and Hawaii Counties||July 2012|
|Resource Name||Resource Category||Date|
|City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii Multi-Hazard Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan||Planning||2019|
|Building Resilience to Coastal Hazards and Climate Change in Hawaii||Data and tools||April 2019|
|Hawaiian Islands Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation Synthesis||Assessments||January 28, 2018|
|Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report||Assessments||December 29, 2017|
|2015 Preliminary Report and Recommendations from the Hawaii Climate Change and Health Working Group||Planning||December 2015|
|Hawaii Climate Adaptation Portal||Adaptation Websites||November 2015|
|Climate Change and the Pacific Islands: Indicators and Impacts||Assessments||December 2012|
|A Framework for Climate Change Adaptation in Hawaii||Planning||November 2009|
|Shoreline Impacts, Setback Policy and Sea Level Rise - Hawaii||Law and Governance||April 2009|