If the bill is signed into law, Hawaii becomes the first U.S. state with climate change and health warnings on all gas pumps. Related warnings or eco-labels are already found on fuel dispensers in Cambridge, MA, and across Sweden.
In fall 2021, eco-labels with climate impact rating became mandatory on fuel dispensers and charging stations across Sweden. A few months before that, climate and health warning labels were placed on all gas pumps in Cambridge, MA. These are the world’s first labelling schemes of this kind.
Hawaii is on track to follow suit. On January 20, 2023, Senators Mike Gabbard, Stanley Chang and Michelle Kidani introduced bill SB506, inspired by the advocacy by the Hawaii-based non-profit Think Beyond the Pump.
The bill requires warning labels on all self-service gas pumps, providing consumers with information about the climate and health effects of burning fossil fuels.
Senator Gabbard provided the following statement to Think Beyond the Pump:
“Placing warning labels on gas pumps across Hawai’i sends a strong message and would be a major step toward increasing awareness nationally – even globally. What better way to help educate people on this looming threat, than by setting our beautiful island paradise as an example?”
Distinguished American and British professors in public health, environment and climate communication testified in support of the bill, as well as local environmental groups. The Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection emphasized in its recommendation to pass the bill that Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
On March 7, 2023, bill SB506 was passed by the State Senate, with 22 Ayes, 7 Ayes with reservations, and 2 Noes. The bill is now transmitted to the House.
Warnings or eco-labels on fossil fuel pumps should spread around the globe, just like health labels on cigarette packages. In the process we must learn from each other to improve the labels, in order to maximize their effect.
The gas pump labels in Cambridge, MA, have already been changed to make the warning more pronounced. The legislators in Hawaii should take notice.
The Swedish eco-labels are sometimes partially hidden by the retailers on the fuel dispenser, using vague instructions in the regulation regarding their placing as an excuse. It should be made clear that the label should be in plain sight when we grab the nozzle to fill our car.
Per Östborn is Campaign Manager of the NGO Green Mobilists Sweden, which campaigned for the Swedish eco-labels. He comments:
“It’s easy for the politicians to sharpen the Swedish eco-label regulation, and we will make sure they do so. Ideally, the entire fossil fuel pump should be wallpapered with graphic warnings and environmental information, just like warnings cover most of the cigarette package in many countries.”