V.I. Climate Change Council Chairman Shawn-Michael Malone Addresses Workshop Participants

Governor Kenneth Mapp recently welcomed a team of national experts on climate adaptation and resilience for a two-day workshop on preparing for earthquakes, flooding, sea-level rise, and other natural hazards. The two-day workshop, which was organized by the Governors’ Institute on Community Design (GICD), included members of the Climate Change Council, cabinet members and other stakeholders.

Over the course of the workshop, participants heard presentations on how to make the Virgin Islands more resilient in the face of hazards associated with climate change, including erosion, hurricanes and rising sea levels. At the same time, members of the Council educated the GICD team on the unique issues facing the Virgin Islands and on our community’s priorities.

On the first day, discussions focused on sharing that critical information and exploring different strategies for reducing risk and building long-term resilience. The second day began with a review of issues raised by the group, and continued with a presentation of possible recommendations for the Virgin Islands and a discussion of how the Climate Change Council could put them into action.

The recommendations included:

Developing a “resilience vision” for the Virgin Islands and assessing existing capacity—possibly by evaluating proposed projects or policies for resilience, risk reduction, emissions impact, or social justice implications.

Altering the hazard mitigation planning process to include climate change strategies, proactive land management, scenario planning, and incorporating adaptation into disaster recovery.

Educating the public on the hazards of extreme weather and climate change through local schools and universities, youth programs, the Climate Change Council website, and existing health and wellness programs.

Expand the disaster recovery process to include climate change planning, while ensuring that citizens are not overburdened by new codes and standards.

Investigating federal funds that allow existing programs and budgets to serve as match funding, and align objectives across agencies to qualify for those funds.

“Overall, the workshop generated several powerful new ideas and identified a number of short-term solutions that the Climate Change Council can take action on immediately,” said Shawn-Michael Malone, Climate Change Council Chairman and Government House Federal Relations Coordinator. “These recommendations will be expanded into a full report, including case studies and specific strategies, which will be shared with the Climate Change Council in the coming weeks. The administration looks forward to working with the GIDC to provide additional information and increase resilience in the Virgin Islands.”

The Governors’ Institute on Community Design is a national, nonpartisan program that assists governors in their efforts to support thriving, well-designed urban, suburban, and rural communities. For over ten years, the GICD has helped more than 30 state executive teams make choices to enhance communities throughout the state by harnessing the policy expertise of leading practitioners in a range of fields, including land use, design, transportation, economic development, resilience and regional planning.