The 29th Pacific Islands Environment Conference, hosted by the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, in partnership with the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency and Guam EPA, brought delegations from the U.S. mainland and across the Pacific, American Samoa, Guam, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands to work in partnership on various environmental issues.
“Kudos to the BECQ team for a fantastic conference. We heard lots of positive comments and praise from the people in attendance,” said John McCarroll, manager for US EPA Region 9.
BECQ administrator Frank M. Rabauliman, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and acting regional administrator for USEPA Region 9 Alexis Strauss welcomed all the environmental advocates, delegates, the scientific community, and community members in attendance.
Despite the uncertainties regarding the federal budget, Strauss said the Pacific region is not overlooked. She shared several milestones for the CNMI and other Pacific island jurisdictions, most notably for the CNMI, including the closure of the Puerto Rico dump, now known as the Gov. Eloy S. Inos Peace Park.
Roger-Mark DeSouza of the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. set the stage with his keynote speech on island resilience, highlighting that strange things have occurred in his studies on how the communities in other territories have innovatively dealt with climate change impacts.
Dr. Mark Keim, CEO of Disaster Doc LLC and a senior science adviser of the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, emphasized the implications of climate change on public health. Keim touched on some of the work he has done in other Pacific jurisdictions and reiterated the statement of the IPCC reports that some communities are more vulnerable to climate change due to varying socioeconomic stresses.
The 29th PIEC also had new features. On opening day, Torres signed a directive that supports the objectives of the CNMI Resilience Work Group, requiring interagency collaboration to ensure that the livelihoods, the natural, and built environments can withstand the impacts of climate variability and change. The signing of the directive was timely, given that climate policy at the national level has been unpredictable.
Another new feature was the goal of having a paperless conference. “Although we did not achieve our goal of a true no paper conference, we were able to significantly reduce the amount of waste reduction at the conference by not having a printed program agenda, directing attendees to visit the deq.gov.mp website for speaker biographies and conference schedule, having onsite recycling bins to encourage recycling and reduced our carbon footprint through carpooling and walking to nearby restaurants for lunch,” said Reina Camacho, conference chairperson.
Camacho added that the goal of the PIEC to assemble the CNMI community alongside environmental professionals to learn and dialogue was achieved.
The PIEC also featured breakout sessions within the environmental field: enforcement, ecotourism, climate risks, coral reefs, sustainable water use, green development, public health, canines for conservation, and data management. In addition to the sessions, each jurisdiction’s director was given an opportunity to share the experiences and challenges that they have encountered.
Over 300 people attended the three-day event, which took place at the Saipan World Resort on June 13, 14, and 15, with the theme “A Sustainable Pacific: Preparing for Change, Voyaging with Knowledge.”
In addition to the conference, workshops tailored to water quality data management and water operator certification occurred as pre-conference events. Post-conference events were geared toward the environmental impact assessment process and responding oil spill events.
The next PIEC is scheduled to take place in June 2019 in Guam. If you were unable to attend the PIEC or would like more information on what transpired, visit www.deq.gov.mp. (PR)
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