Guam and the U.S.-affiliated Insular Areas — mostly island nations — are in the middle of the climate change crisis and a recently introduced bill was tackled by the US House Representatives proposing ways to address the crisis.
The Natural Resources Committee led by Chair Raúl M. Grijalva held a hearing on the draft of the Insular Area Climate Change Act this week.
The current draft of the legislation:
= Creates an Interagency Task Force to identify ways to provide greater access to climate change-related federal programs to the U.S. Territories;
= Establishes an Office of Insular Area Energy Policy and Programs within the Department of Energy to centralize and expand federal energy programs in the Insular Areas; and
= Creates multiple grant programs to invest in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure in Insular Areas.
The draft also cancels repayments of federal loans and waives non-federal cost-share requirements for Insular Areas.
Experts from Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands presented testimony. For Guam, Austin Shelton, director of the UOG Center for Island Sustainability, spoke about the impacts of climate change to the islands.
“Echoing my fellow witnesses, climate change impacts to our nation are disproportionate. Islands contribute least to the causes of climate change, yet we experience the brunt of its impacts…in the form of frequent and severe storm events, droughts, flooding, and coral bleaching,” Shelton said.
Shelton says Guam recently took a few steps for achieving a sustainable future and would be ready to take advantage of new opportunities provided through this legislation.
“In November 2019, Guam, through Public Law 35-36, was assigned mandating 50 percent renewable energy production for the island by 2035 and a hundred percent by 2045. In September 2020, the Guam Green Growth Action Framework was formally adopted by the Governor of Guam. The initiative aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals serving as our island’s most comprehensive action plan created to achieve a sustainable future,” Shelton said.
He added that under the weight of climate change impacts, biodiversity laws, debilitating storms, and swallowing seas, islands are not sinking … strong and resilient islands are rising.