Carbon Offset Initiative

Market-based mechanisms can be a powerful tool to leverage private investment in the natural ecosystems that make Hawai‘i special with on-going stewardship serving as the foundation for a healthy economy. Inspired by high-level dialogues at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, SBF members agreed to focus on accelerating market-based mechanisms in Hawai‘i, including a carbon offset initiative and Payment for Ecosystems Services.

The Project

Members of the Sustainability Business Forum (SBF) are partnering with The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi (TNC) to help bring a carbon offset pilot project to market. SBF members are jointly investing in an 8,000-acre forest carbon project located at The Nature Conservancy’s Kona Hema Preserve on Hawaiʻi Island. Preliminary estimates are that the project could generate up to 100,000 carbon emission offset credits in the first six years that could be available for potential Hawaiʻi buyers. One credit offsets one metric ton of carbon emissions. As added benefits, the project also supports groundwater recharge for freshwater supply and protects native koa and ‘ōhia forest, which is culturally significant and provides habitat for native species.

Carbon Offsets

Carbon offset programs allow companies or individuals to offset an activity that produces carbon emissions with another activity like growing trees that sequesters or captures carbon emissions. For example, three one-way tickets from Honolulu to Los Angeles emit one ton of carbon. Buying one carbon credit would finance an activity, such as the forest carbon project in Kona Hema, that pulls that same amount of carbon out of the atmosphere.

There are many different practices and technologies that help draw carbon from the atmosphere. Aside from aforestation or improved forest management practices, other technologies include improved agricultural or ranching practices, enhancing soil carbon, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and capturing the emissions and leaks from waste management, coal mines, and refrigerant liquids. Carbon offset projects create a rigorous structure to quantify, verify, and price these benefits. This structure creates a market-based pathway for local and global demand for emission reductions to financially support and scale carbon-sequestering practices and the co-benefits they generate.

Hawaiʻi’s Policy Context

Members of the Sustainability Business Forum and The Nature Conservancy are working with experts and partners, including the State of Hawaiʻi, to create a pipeline of projects and supporting policies to create a thriving carbon offset market for Hawaiʻi. Below is an overview of other planned projects, existing policies, commissions, partners, and reports relating to carbon offsets in Hawaiʻi:

  • Conservation International conducted a landscape analysis of all existing market-based mechanisms for Payment for Ecosystem Service tools in the state of Hawaiʻi. The report was commissioned by the SBF and is titled “Hawai‘i Carbon + Natural Capital: A Policy + Institutional Analysis for Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Approaches in Hawai‘i” and was released during the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference (COP23). (see Resources)
  • The State DLNR DOFAW is pursuing two forest carbon offset projects: one in Kahikinui/Nakula (Maui) and one in Puʻu Mali (Hawaiʻi Island).
  • In 2018, the Hawaiʻi legislature established a statewide goal of being carbon negative (capturing more carbon than we emit) by 2045 (Act 15)
  • Also in 2018, the State Office of Planning, in partnership with the Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Task Force, was tasked with investigating and establishing a carbon offset program and submit a report by early 2020 (Act 16).
  • The Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Task Force of the State of Hawaii is tasked with increasing greenhouse gas sequestration in the State’s agricultural and natural environment and establish benchmarks, identify measurement criteria, policy tools, develop incentives, and recommend policies.
  • The State’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission(previously the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee) was created in 2017 and is tasked with providing direction, facilitation, coordination and planning among state and county agencies, federal agencies, and other partners about climate change mitigation (reduction of greenhouse gases) and climate change resilience and adaptation strategies.

Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy