‘Islands are still rising’: CSIN biannual gathering promotes policy framework, connections for climate change resiliency

Resolute in their undertaking to build communities resilient to the effects of climate change, dozens of representatives across the U.S. islands convened virtually for the sixth Climate Strong Islands Network (CSIN) Biannual Gathering, March 24.   

At the core of the agenda was the introduction to and discussions surrounding the CSIN’s National Policy Framework presented by members of the network’s policy team and High Street Strategies, a government relations and consulting firm.   

The framework indicated seven key issue areas common to island communities that will support climate change preparedness, if acted upon. The framework also offered corresponding policy recommendations to help guide the implementation of or amendments to policies.  

“We’ve captured those issues and developed solutions,” said Jason Donofrio, CSIN Steering Committee advisor and external relations officer for The Ocean Foundation. 

“We see the National Policy Framework as an outline to begin addressing islands’ needs and a pathway to becoming more climate resilient.” 

The key needs were identified as clean energy, watershed planning, food security, disaster preparedness, marine economy, waste management, and transportation, as presented by CSIN policy team members, Matthew Mullin, High Street Strategies president and CEO; Norah Carlos, High Street Strategies associate; and Erin Gaines, High Street Strategies consultant.   

The team determined that island representation in federal decision-making processes, development of island capacity through significant investments in its people, and access to affordable information and technology were cross-cutting themes that will enable sustainable action in response to the issues at hand.   

Network members were encouraged to continue advocating for their islands and to present the framework to their local decision makers, while also supporting and elevating progressions in innovation and ingenuity.  

“Our common purpose is to achieve a sustainable future together. The good news that I share with you today is that islands are still rising,” said Austin Shelton, CSIN Steering Committee co-chairperson and director of the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability (CIS) and UOG Sea Grant. “Despite the global pandemic physically separating us, we have not been isolated. We have strengthened our bonds through these networks, and now, we are building on our momentum of the past few years and sailing ahead. Please stick with us and encourage your island friends to join in this Climate Strong movement.” 

“For a long time, people saw living on islands as a separation, a barrier, or a boundary. I am so proud to see how all of us from islands around the world have bonded together in this gathering to show that the whole planet is like an island itself, and our connections to each other are a lot closer than anyone could’ve imagined,” said Thomas Krise, UOG president. “Our efforts, through the work of the UOG CIS and the Guam Green Growth (G3) Initiative, and our other programs and partnerships, have motivated and inspired people all around our island to step up and do what they can to help this mission. We stand together with everyone here today, who believes, that, while as individual islands, we are firm and sturdy and rooted, together, as a network, we are really strong – island strong.” 

This year’s gathering was hosted by the UOG CIS and G3.  

The CSIN biannual gatherings fuse dozens of U.S. island community leaders and partners in philanthropy, business, academia, and government throughout the continental U.S., nation states, Caribbean Sea, and Pacific Ocean territories to expand their capacity to mitigate the impacts of extreme climate events. The CSIN is governed by an independent steering committee of island leaders, co-hosted by The Ocean Foundation and the Global Island Partnership as a member of the Local2030 Islands Network. 

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