By the Caribbean Journal staff
The US Virgin Islands is launching a new fight against the impact of climate change.
Governor Kenneth Mapp has signed an executive order that provides for the launch of a territorial climate change initiative and to facilitate cooperation between the territory, the federal government, the private sector and civil society.
“The impacts of climate change are adversely affecting ecosystems, communities, economies, and public health across the Nation, with the United States Virgin Islands experiencing excessively high temperatures, increasingly severe droughts, and increasing intensity of downpours,” Mapp said. “Communities that already face economic or health-related challenges will experience higher levels of disruption from climate change impacts given that the United States Virgin Islands, like most small islands, are particularly vulnerable”; and thus concluding that “With fragile ecosystems, limited freshwater resources, a small population and economy, the ability of the Territory to absorb shocks from storms and other natural disasters is constrained.”
Part of the order includes the creation of the US Virgin Islands Climate Change Council, which will act as a coordinating mechanism between federal and local agencies, research institutions and the private and nonprofit sectors, Mapp said.
The shorter term goal is to create a US Virgin Islands policy for climate change adaptation set for completion by Sept. 30, 2016.
“The greater vulnerability of the Territory is based also on the concentration of hotels, businesses, critical infrastructure, and residential development in the coastal area, which increases exposure to storm surge and sea level rise,” Mapp said. “Assessments of the economic impact of climate change on Caribbean islands indicate that the substantial impact will be from sea level rise, and that areas which will be impacted most are tourism and infrastructure. In order to ensure climate preparedness and build a resilient community, all the social sectors in the United States Virgin Islands must work together to safeguard our natural resource base, social infrastructure, economic base, and communities.”