Jean-Pierre L. Oriol, commissioner of the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources took part in a virtual panel discussion Thursday before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the draft Insular Area Climate Change Act
The bill, if passed, would provide climate-change assistance for planning, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience in the U.S. territories and freely associated states, according to a news release issued by DPNR.
Oriol told the lawmakers the bill would provide needed balance for the USVI.
“Our islands make minimal contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are experiencing overwhelming ecological, economic and cultural impacts from global climate change, which will dramatically increase over the next several decades,” Oriol said.
If the bill sponsored by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) is enacted into law, it would dedicate funding and technical assistance to the insular areas and territories in the amount to exceed $50 million annually in the first three years and $30 million annually after that; grant a waiver of the cost-share from all the federal recovery funding being received by the islands and increase the federal match requirement waiver from $200,000 per award to $750,000 per award.
Reducing the amount of local matching funds which are currently required would allow the territory to redirect those funds into energy infrastructure projects and advancements that have positive environmental impacts on the Virgin Islands, according to the DPNR news release.
“Overall, the USVI sees the significance of this bill as the proposed creation of programs and steady funding sources specifically for the insular areas and territories to address impacts related to climate change,” Oriol said. “It is our opinion that the passage of the Insular Areas Climate Change Act will create more equitable conditions for the islands to comprehensively address the challenges that will come because of climate change.”