Study Buddy (Challenger): Hawaii takes a step towards net-zero emissions in its fight against climate change

  • America’s 50th state has taken the bold step of turning off its last coal-fired power plant and aims to transition fully to renewable energy by 2045
  • Study Buddy Challenger is for students who want to take their understanding to the next level with difficult vocabulary and questions that will test their inference skills
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Hawaii’s climate woes include the bleaching of coral reefs, rising sea levels, and intensifying storms, droughts, and wildfires. Photo: Shutterstock

Content provided by the British Council

Read the following text, and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] The net-zero pledge: everyone is making one, but how many leaders are really trying to live up to their promises? Not many, is our admittedly unscientific reckoning. Net zero refers to trying to eliminate or remove carbon emissions as part of fighting the climate crisis, which is driven largely by emissions of greenhouse gases.

[2] Helping to confirm our suspicions is, which says, “So far, only two countries, Bhutan and Suriname, have achieved negative emissions status while still few other countries have made legally binding agreements, proposals, or have only discussed action plans to take.”

[3] Hats off to Hawaii, then. The US state took the bold step of turning off its last coal-fired power plant on September 1. “The last coal shipment [Hawaii uses coal from Indonesia] arrived in the islands at the end of July, and the AES Corporation coal plant closed Thursday after 30 years in operation. The facility produced up to one-fifth of the electricity on Oahu – the most populous island in a state of nearly 1.5 million people,” reported Associated Press.

[4] Hawaiian Governor David Ige told Associated Press, “It really is about reducing greenhouse gases.” He estimated that the closure would “stop the 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases that were emitted annually”. It is a bold move because Hawaii is less able than other US states to afford such a shift.

[5] The islands’ consumers already shoulder the nation’s highest energy and living costs. Because of a current lack of renewable alternatives – which account for just 40 per cent of its power – the state’s electricity producers are going to have to make up the shortfall in the near term by burning oil. Slightly less dirty than coal, oil is more expensive and subject to wild fluctuations in price given today’s geopolitical realities.

[6] Nevertheless, Hawaii – whose climate woes include the bleaching of coral reefs by warming oceans, rapid sea level rise, the intensification of storms and droughts, and the resulting risk of wildfire – had committed to weaning itself off coal by the beginning of 2023. It is aiming to transition completely to renewable energy by 2045 and, although it is the United States’ most petroleum-dependent state, Hawaii was the first to introduce such targets.

[7] Though transitioning is expensive, it is nowhere near as expensive as not transitioning, and the cost of renewables is falling as new technology is adopted. The leap is tough for governments everywhere because it is likely to add to the short-term costs of living and threaten powerful vested interests. But it must be done if humans are to stand any chance of retaining orderly societies.

[8] “What is all this pontificating doing in a newspaper column about travel and tourism?” you may ask. We are of the opinion that climate breakdown should not be just another issue to be covered in isolation; it should be the issue that provides a wider context for reporting and commenting on everything else. After all, on a dead planet, there will be no vacations or even staycations. Renewable power to the people!

Source: South China Morning Post, September 8


1. Find a word in paragraph 1 that means “a serious or formal promise”.

2. In paragraph 2, what do the “suspicions” refer to?

3. According to the article, what step has Hawaii taken to achieve negative emissions?

A. started using only renewable resources to produce its electricity

B. stopped operating coal-fired power plants

C. introduced a tax on companies that use coal power

D. began large-scale reforestation projects

4. Why does the writer consider Hawaii’s decision a “bold move”? (2 marks)

5. According to paragraph 6, what targets for 2023 and 2045 did Hawaii set to achieve its climate pledge? (2 marks)

6. According to paragraph 6, examples of how climate change has affected Hawaii include ...

A. coral reefs losing their vibrant colours

B. rising sea levels and worsening storms

C. intensifying drought and threat of wildfire

D. all of the above

7. Based on the information in paragraphs 6 and 7, complete the summary below by writing a word that best fits each blank. Your answers must be grammatically correct.

Though Hawaii’s power grid is heavily dependent on (i) ________________, it has made a decision to switch fully to (ii) ________________ energy in less than three decades from now. While this may seem to be an expensive choice at first, the state will (iii) ________________ in the long term as it continues to invest in green power technology, and all governments will soon have to follow suit to survive.

8. Why might some readers be surprised to find this article in a newspaper column about travel and tourism?

9. Based on information in the article, what is the writer’s stance on the role of climate change in journalism?

The AES Corporation coal plant in Kapolei, Hawaii has closed after 30 years of operation. Photo: AP


1. pledge

2. The author’s guess that only a small handful of countries which have taken up the net-zero pledge have actively worked towards this goal (accept other similar answers)

3. B

4. Compared to other US states, Hawaii is less able to afford to shift away from coal-fired power plants. Not only do the islands’ consumers already shoulder the nation’s highest energy and living costs, but a current lack of renewable alternatives means Hawaii will have to burn oil, a more expensive alternative. (accept other similar answers)

5. abolishing its use of coal for energy by 2023; transition completely to renewable energy by 2045

6. D

7. (i) petroleum; (ii) renewable; (iii) benefit

8. On the surface, the topic of renewable energy might seem unrelated to travel. (accept other reasonable answers)

9. The writer believes that climate change is not an issue to be covered in isolation, and that it should be the issue providing a wider context for reporting on everything else.

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