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May 4, 2001

MAYOR HARRIS ON HIS ENVIRONMENTAL SUMMIT

The environmental future of the Asia-Pacific region is seriously threatened. We're all aware of its burgeoning population that continues to grow and its scarce natural resources that are being consumed and polluted at an alarming rate. The question is how to best find and implement effective solutions. I believe the answers are in the hands of leaders at the local level in each country and island-nation.

That's why, in 1999, I initiated the Mayors' Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit (MAPES). Held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, 400 representatives from 19 countries and 118 cities came together for the first time to discuss the multi- faceted environmental challenges they face. The gathering of municipal leaders, environmental consultants and international dignitaries resulted in the establishment of a serious ongoing dialogue among the key regional and global leaders who affect environmental policy.

On May 4-6, the Mayors' Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit will meet again in Honolulu. The over 400 delegates who will attend this year's event are coming with the purpose of formulating tangible goals and solutions. Many of the leaders who shared their environmental problems at the previous conference will give progress reports. In the end, the Summit will culminate with the delegate-drafted Mayors' Action Plan, a formal report of recommendations to be delivered at the United Nations Earth Summit 2002 on Sustainable Development.

Integral to MAPES's success is focusing on policy changes at the local government level. Also integral is accountability. Attendees at the 1999 MAPES made commitments to plant 100,000 trees, to reduce leaks in the municipal water system by 20 percent, and to convert one city's bus system's fuel source from diesel to electricity. All of these promises are measurable, and all of them can be a catalyst for long-term sustainability.

With the challenge to our region's environmental future comes opportunity. The success of the first Summit prompted attendees to establish Honolulu as a permanent secretariat for Asia-Pacific environmental issues. This places Hawai'i in the position to become the leading resource for solutions to environmental issues throughout the world. The City and County of Honolulu is now establishing the new Asia-Pacific Urban Technology Institute in Kapolei. After it is completed in June, this facility will be a centerpiece for Hawai'i's vast array of environmental technology resources and expertise.

There's no doubt that Hawai'i has already acted as a leader in this arena, with the exporting of our environmental expertise. Local firms such as LyonAssociates, Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo and Belt Collins Hawai'i have led environmental consulting work in Asia. Our state's strict environmental permitting process has also served as a template for other regions developing their own processes.

With the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Urban Technology Institute, the hosting of MAPES, and the delivery of the Mayors' Action Plan to the United Nations Earth Summit next year, Hawai'i is well on its way to proving itself as a primary source for solutions to environmental problems, for local governments from Shanghai, China to Lihue, Kauai.

As Mayor of Honolulu, I urge all our residents to welcome the delegates to MAPES, and to salute them for their dedication to a common cause that will benefit us all.

[from Mayor Jeremy Harris for the Star-Bulletin editorial page]
Tuesday, February 26, 2002

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