Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed an executive order Friday to prepare the territory for the impacts of climate change, Government House announced Monday in a news release.
The order provides for the commencement of a territorial climate change initiative and facilitates close cooperation with the federal government, the V.I. government, the private sector and the community.
In the statement announcing the order, Mapp said, “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 noted that the territory, like most small island communities, will experience higher levels of disruption from climate change impacts.
"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,” Mapp said.
The executive order will establish the U.S. Virgin Islands Climate Change Council, which would work with federal and local agencies, academic and research institutions, and the private and nonprofit sectors.
The council will designate a public institution, or network of institutions as necessary, to host and manage the data and tools required for public information and climate-adaptation decision making, the news release said.
The council also will provide for the establishment of a web-based portal to support integration of the data and tools to be used in climate-adaptation decision-making, as well as to enable easy access to the data.
One of the main goals of the council is to develop and present to the governor by Sept. 30, 2016, a local policy for climate change adaptation and subsequently coordinate implementation of a public engagement strategy to inform the public about climate change issues, enhance the public’s understanding of possible actions at personal and societal levels, and encourage full community participation in climate-change adaptation initiatives.