HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Native Hawaiian cultural values of kuleana and malama aina inspired the crowd for the opening ceremonies of the IUCN World Conservation Congress at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center on Thursday.
The 10-day gathering, held in the United States for the first time this year, includes 9,000 dignitaries and conservationists from more than 190 countries.
Global climate change -- and its impact on a plethora of species and communities -- is slated to be a major focus of the gathering.
"Hawaii is often referred to as the endangered species capital of the world," said Gov. David Ige, during the opening ceremonies. "We have a kuleana, a responsibility, to malama, to steward our natural and cultural resources."
During his address, Ige also highlighted the state's goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, and announced that Hawaii will join the Global Island Partnership, which is aimed at helping island communities develop and conserve natural resources that support cultures and livelihoods.
Ige also said he is committed to protecting 30 percent of the state's nearshore waters by 2030.
"We have a long way to go" to address threats to the environment, said U.S. Brian Schatz, a strong advocate for the environment who proposed the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The president arrived in Hawaii on Wednesday to mark the designation, and visited Midway Atoll in the monument on Thursday.
Schatz said while global climate change remains an urgent issue, "what gives me great hope is that the people in this room devote everything that they've got to protecting the only planet that we share."
Meanwhile, in her remarks on Thursday morning, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell praised Obama's decision to quadruple the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
"The entire U.S. delegation gathered here is on 'cloud nine' celebrating Barack Obama's most recent addition to our national monument system Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the largest protected area in the world," Jewell said.