Hawaiʻi Gov. Ige nominates climate change expert Aimee Keliʻi Barnes for State Land Board

Climate change expert Aimee Keliʻi Barnes has been named to the Hawaiʻi State Board of Land and Natural Resources. Photo Courtesy: Office of the Governor

Hawaiʻi Gov. David Ige nominated Kailua resident Aimee Keliʻi Barnes to replace Dr. Samuel Gon III on the Board of Land and Natural Resources. While Barnes’ nomination is subject to Hawaiʻi Senate approval, she begins serving immediately.

Barnes is currently the principal of Hua Nani Partners, a consulting practice that provides policy and strategy advice to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations focusing on climate change. She also serves as the Director of the Policy Lab at Elemental Excelerator, a non-profit founded in 2009 in Hawaiʻi that supports equitable climate innovation.

“Aimee’s expertise on climate change issues was a major factor in her nomination to the BLNR [Board of Land and Natural Resources],” Gov. Ige said. “As Hawai‘i faces significant challenges and opportunities in mitigating the impacts of climate change on our natural landscapes, having a person of Aimee’s background is extremely important to help inform decisions and policy making.”

Barnes is a nationally recognized expert on climate change. Previously, she was appointed by former California Gov. Jerry Brown as a member of his senior staff, leading implementation of his climate and environmental policy agenda. She was responsible for California’s carbon neutrality executive order, described as “history’s most ambitious climate target” at its launch. Like Hawai‘i, California has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

“Hawai‘i is a beacon of climate and sustainability leadership for the world,” Barnes said. “The BLNR has an important role to play in helping the state meet its ambitious climate goals, including through conservation of the state’s natural and working lands, which serve as a significant carbon sink.”

Barnes also has served as deputy secretary for Border and Intergovernmental Relations for the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Her work on environmental issues spans nearly 20 years in the non-profit and private sector, and internationally. Barnes earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College, where she was awarded a Mellon-Mays Fellowship to study Hawaiian environmentalism and cultural identity. She received her MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Aimee’s father was raised in Nu‘uanu Valley and attended Kamehameha Schools. His family originates from Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i. Her maternal grandmother sailed to O‘ahu as a teenager on the Lurline and attended Roosevelt High School.

“My commitment to climate and sustainability issues is rooted in my love and respect for the natural world and my Hawaiian heritage,” Barnes said. “I am humbled and honored by the responsibility to serve on BLNR, and to bring my perspective on building a strong, sustainable economy in Hawai’i.”

Barnes’ term on the Land Board ends June 30, 2025. She is representing the 3rd Land District, which is the City and County of Honolulu.

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