Guam- Over the course of the next 3 days, environmental managers from around the pacific are gathering together to learn from their challenges and move forward as region.
With a theme of “Reduce. Balance. Enhance.”, over 300 people are attending the 27th Pacific Islands Environment Conference (PIEC) at the Hyatt Resort. The event is supposed to be coordinated every 2 years by an American territory in the pacific, but it hasn’t been held in the last 4 years.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld says environmentalists and leaders from the Pacific Islands are meeting to discuss their concerns and successes with waste water, renewable energy, trash and transportation.
He notes one of the most prevalent issues they are talking about today [Wednesday] in the conference is how to get to zero waste.
“American Samoa recently banned plastic bags,” said Blumenfeld. “All those issues of how to get rid of styrofoam from washing up on the beaches, to cigarette butts to food and all the waste that comes from that. So that’s a big issue. Another one is drinking water, making sure that it meets federal standards.”
Blumenfeld also says climate change is another big concern. He mentions President Barack Obama made an announcement today about efforts to curb climate change and EPA’s role to regulate existing sources of power plants.
“He points out Guam will be affected by sea levels rising and distortions with temperature and weather patterns. He emphasizes there is no doubt humans are causing climate change through emission of green house gases.
“There’s two or three scientists out of the many thousand that cause doubts and you read about that and you hear about it on TV,” said Blumenfeld. “But really, the science is in. The jury is out. And climate change is being caused by us. And we need to reduce our green house gas emissions and also start planning for its arrival.”
Climate change is also the main issue for the Republic of the Marshall Islands. RMI Environmental Protection Authority General Manager Lowell Alik says with no mountains or hills on low lying coral atolls, flooding has increasingly become a concern.
“Just yesterday, there was a mini flood that has affected the islands and has caused for Marshallese people that were traveling to the Marshall Islands from Honolulu and the mainland to miss their flight and miss the landing stop in Majuro,” said Alik. “Some may think that it’s not happening, but we at the Marshall islands, we’re facing it and we are the victims. We see it everyday.”
He notes 50 stranded Marshallese are on Guam right now because of the recent flood. He genuinely believes climate change is already causing sea levels to rise. Alik says he wants to share his experiences at this conference so everyone can learn and help each other overcome these problems.
“We’re here to learn from others,” said Alik. “Learn and share our issues here so that everybody can be with us, us small island states, pacific island countries, to help resolve the issues to climate change.”
Blumenfeld adds Guam’s tourism industry can benefit from this conference as efforts are shared to protect the quality of the land, sea and air for residents and visitors alike.
“They come to Guam because it’s a tropical paradise,” said Blumenfeld. “We need to keep a tropical paradise and EPA wants to play a role.”
The conference ends on Friday, June 28. It is jointly coordinated by Guam EPA, the CNMI Division of Environmental Quality and the American Samoa EPA. It also coincides with Guam EPA’s 40th anniversary.