Climate action network expands island partnerships, affirms commitments

THE GATHERING: Climate Strong Islands Network Steering Committee member Jason Donofrio from The Ocean Foundation welcomed members to the meeting of the whole. The event was held virtually and produced out of Guam by the UOG Center for Island Sustainability.

The Climate Strong Islands Network (CSIN) is growing. As the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and other convenors reported during the 5th biannual gathering on Sept. 23, the network now has over 70 signatories representing a diverse coalition of partners and supporters all over the world. 

In comparison, when Guam and other U.S. islands and entities signed the Climate Strong Islands Declaration in Puerto Rico on Feb. 26, 2020, the document had 60 signatories. The declaration sets forth principles, challenges, and opportunities faced by island communities in the U.S. In addition, it serves as a call to arms to help these communities respond to the climate change crisis effectively. 

At the gathering, CSIN steering committee member Jason Donofrio of the Ocean Foundation, confirmed that the Climate Strong Islands network is expanding its reach, both in participation numbers and concrete action.  

“We know it is important to continue to expand our geographical representation actively — to be as inclusive as possible,” he said. During the past year, Donofrio added that the steering committee had launched three sub-committees on policy, community outreach, and development to execute the action items of the network.  

Donofrio also provided updates on CSIN’s policy and legislative advocacy. “The Climate Strong Islands Network has testified twice in Congress related to the ocean-based climate solutions bill and submitted a formal recommendation on ways to improve the legislation to be more effective for islands,” he said. 

Director of UOG CIS and Sea Grant Austin Shelton also serves as the CSIN Steering Committee Co-Chair

UOG Center for Island Sustainability director and CSIN steering committee co-chair Austin Shelton also reported on the increase in island representation. At the local front, he said the network will help Guam advance local climate action in alignment with the Guam Green Growth Initiative (G3) and Climate Change Resiliency Commission.  

“I am pleased to report that we have been growing stronger since the last time we gathered. In addition to our network cohost, the Ocean Foundation and Global Island Partnership, we now have an incredible network coordinator, and a policy team moves our collective efforts forward. We’ve grown our steering committee to be more representative of more island voices,” Shelton said.  

More than 100 participants participated in 6 breakout groups at the gathering representing the following key action items: disaster preparedness, food security, watershed planning, renewable energies, economic resilience, and sustainable marine economy.  

The gathering also featured two bright spot presentations highlighting successful efforts by partners in implementing climate change solutions. First, Lirio Marquez of the Vieques Conservation Conservation and Historica Trust of Vieques, Puerto Rico, presented the successes of the Proyecto Mangle. The volunteer-based mangrove restoration project in the Puerto Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay highlighted the need to mobilize the community for ecological conservation.  

The Gathering featured Brightspot Presentations from partners and featured speakers from throughout the world including Puerto Rico and St. Paul Island.

Next, Lauren Divine and Marissa Merculieff presented on the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island. They described the PRibilof islands marine ecosystem (PRIME) management strategy. PRIME is a community and ecosystem-based system rooted in the recovery of keystone species, maintenance of indigenous cultural traditions, and implementation of indigenous-led research and management. 

The 5th CSIN biannual gathering aims to get input from stakeholders to support CSIN’s national policy framework and drum up interest and participation in the network. UOG CIS and the G3 team facilitated the biannual gathering. 

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, one of the original signatories of the CSIN declaration, lauded the network for its efforts, “It is encouraging that this essential work of islands continues to connect vast oceans to tackle climate change — the biggest challenge of our lifetime and our very existence. Although we are islands far away from each other, the oceans connect us, and together, we are strong, and we are resilient,” she said. 

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