Dignitaries, scientists and government officials from the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland are gathered in Puerto Rico this week to discuss climate change in the Caribbean, and its consequences for the region.
This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, and the U.S. Department of Interior are joining forces with the governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for the event attended by 350 people.
“The Caribbean is exceptionally vulnerable to climate change and other coastal hazards, which makes the task of safeguarding these communities and this environment all the more challenging,” said Russell Callender, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service.
“This conference, with its emphasis on local successes and initiatives, provides another indication of the region’s willingness to be proactive and share with each other what is working and what can be improved,” Callender said.
The conference pursues to increase understanding of the climate challenge that is occurring in Puerto Rico, the USVI, and the broader Caribbean, highlighting recent success stories in preparing for and responding to the effects of the changes.
Participants in the event that wraps up today also reviewed new advances in Caribbean climate science, promote tools and strategies that support climate adaptation and mitigation activities, and inspire further collaboration in responding to challenges of climate change in the Caribbean.
“This conference reminds us of something very important when we talk about climate change: we are not alone in this fight. I think we can qualify it as the largest cooperative effort, until now, between the governments of the United States, Puerto Rico and the USVI to prepare for the great challenges that climate change may bring,” Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla said.
“We have before us a historic opportunity to show the world how our islands can cope and grow in adversity. At the end of the day, many of the challenges are the same: droughts, hurricanes and coastal erosion recognizes no borders,” he said.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed Tuesday signed between the governments of Puerto Rico and the USVI. The EPA will also sign the document, which is geared at cementing a commitment to share expertise to address climate change in the Caribbean.
“I am pleased to join Governor Garcia Padilla, and key Federal agencies in this continued effort to achieve resilient communities in the face of present and increasing impacts of climate change in our respective jurisdictions,” said USVI Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp.
“I’m personally and morally committed to this challenge and deeply encouraged by the collaboration I see resulting in this very important conference on climate change in the U.S. Caribbean,” he said.
Meanwhile, EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said climate change is impacting the Caribbean “in serious ways, and we can expect more impacts in the future.”
“This region is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes, and drought,” Enck said. “The fact that so many impressive thinkers and solution-makers from U.S. government agencies, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are in attendance shows that we all understand – we must act now and act together to address the greatest environmental challenge of our time.”
Two programs that seek to enhance collaboration among federal and territorial agencies are the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub and the Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative, both located at the U.S. Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry.
They have been established to enhance the flow of information from climate science to agencies and individuals making decisions.