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Puerto Rico gov enacts Climate Change Act

By on May 22, 2019


Announces launch of mobile app for green tourism

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Wednesday signed the Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change Act, which establishes related public policy that includes goals, metrics and compliance dates to address the risks the island faces amid increasingly hotter global temperatures that are expected to produce weather pattern changes.

Rosselló also announced the launch of the government’s Green Tourism mobile application, which promotes the areas protected by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER).

“It’s of utmost importance that Puerto Rico has an important role in taking aggressive measures to address climate change and this law reflects our administration’s commitment to address and prevent it,” the governor said.

He further noted that “the projections for the island are dramatic as they show global warming in Puerto Rico will be much higher than the world average, which will cause longer droughts, as well as negative effects on agriculture, human health, the flora and fauna, and the availability of water.”

The new law stems from Senate Bill 773, which was authored by Sen. Larry Seilhamer, and was the result of a working group between the administration and the legislature following the Multisector Working Groups to Mitigate Climate Change, created through Executive Order 45 of 2018.

The law seeks to adopt measures aimed at the transition toward a renewable or alternative energy model that eliminates coal as a source of energy.

“Climate change is not a debate about perception or interpretation, it’s a scientific issue,” Seilhamer said.

“Because of its geographical location Puerto Rico is affected by the consequences of climate change and warming of the Caribbean waters,” the lawmaker said. “Senate Bill 773 arose because of the existing need for public policy with established metrics to address this issue.”

The majority New Progressive Party (NPP) senator said the “public policy related to climate change will establish mitigation, adaptation and resilience plan in all sectors. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect our island and leave a better place to live for future generations,” adding that he agrees “with the governor that this law is the maximum legacy we can leave to our planet.”

The legislation also seeks to adopt measures that foster energy consumption based on renewable or alternative energy sources; as well as the participation of consumers in its production and distribution.

In addition, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “by 50 percent in a permanent, quantifiable and verifiable way in the next five years.”

The governor said an energy model will be worked on that aims to eliminate the consumption of fossil fuels, and that the concession of new contracts or permits and the extension of existing contracts or permits to establish or continue generating coal-based energy in Puerto Rico will be prohibited to eliminate the fossil fuel use by December 2027.

The law also looks to cut the island’s energy consumption by at least 1 percent annually, starting next year until reaching a 10 percent reduction by 2030.

The measure also includes reforestation, which will be addressed with the planting of half a million native and endemic trees within five years. Another matter included in the law is the implementation of a multisectoral recycling plan to reduce the amount of solid waste deposited in landfills.

Regarding the DNER’s Green Tourism app, Rosselló said it would make it easier for visitors to learn the location of and tourism activities that can be carried out at the island’s protected natural areas (PNA).

The DNER manages 36 natural reserves, 19 forests and five wildlife sanctuaries.

Through the app, which is available on Google Play for devices that run on the Android operating system, users can explore these areas on an interactive map. The app is expected to be available for iPhone shortly.

Users will be able to find the DNER-authorized operators that offer services in protected areas and learn about the monthly activities that will be carried out in these.

Some of the activities at the protected areas include kayaking, hiking, biking and camping, the reservation process for which is contained in the app.

DNER Secretary Tania Vázquez, who was alongside the governor for the bill’s enactment, stressed that the economy and economic development depend on the preservation of natural resources.

“The new Green Tourism application precisely responds to the preservation of natural resources, since it promotes the economy through activities that are in harmony with nature and that do not alter our ecosystems,” Vázquez said.

The governor concluded his speech Wednesday by announcing the reopening of the camping area at the Cambalache State Forest reserve in Arecibo.

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