Hundreds demand action on climate change from Pierluisi
By John McPhaul
Hundreds of organizations, communities and citizens have formulated a Declaration for the Climate Crisis demanding that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and the island Legislature urgently develop forceful actions to address the impact of climate change in Puerto Rico.
Erika Fontánez Torres, a law professor and a spokesperson for the Climate Action Now initiative, said that “in recent years we have experienced great anguish due to the impact of unprecedented hurricanes, floods, droughts and high temperatures.”
“All of this is related to climate change that will continue to impact our lives,” she said. “This crisis can no longer be ignored.”
The 10 demands of the Declaration for the Climate Crisis are: a public policy on climate change; political appointments of people committed to climate justice; updated laws to mitigate the crisis; adoption of a Coastal Law; supervision of contracts to avoid conflicts with environmental goals; transformation toward a sustainable economy; generation of jobs to restore natural assets; land planning according to the climate crisis; citizen participation; commitment to renewable energy, protection of coasts, estuarine systems, agricultural land and the cessation of logging.
The declaration is available on the internet at https://forms.gle/mwh6g9CDBsxmy5in8.
Global warming and the climate crisis it generates directly impact health, housing, jobs, food security, among other issues that are highlighted in the declaration signed by more than 400 professionals, scientists and community organizations that joined the call, the groups said. Among them are Clinicians for Climate Action Puerto Rico, the Sierra Club, the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, Ciudadanos del Karso, El Puente, Fundación Segarra Boerman, Legal Aid and people from diverse walks of life such as firefighters, pastors and ecumenical leaders, psychiatrists, teachers and planners.
Dr. Gredia Huerta Montañez, a pediatrician and one of the founders of Clinicians for Climate Action Puerto Rico, stressed that “there are many studies that directly and indirectly link the climate crisis with human health, especially children in all their developmental stages.”
“This is everyone’s business,” she said.
Mariolga Reyes Cruz, a doctor in community psychology and director of the Community Land Trust for Sustainable Agriculture, said the climate crisis “is not addressed in isolation.”
“Climate change affects everything,” she said. “That is why it is vital that the government assumes environmental and social sustainability as a guiding principle.”
Reyes Cruz stressed that the government’s commitment to urgent and fair attention to the climate crisis must be reflected in action.
“This is the time to create thousands of jobs dedicated to a protection, rehabilitation, adaptation and mitigation agenda, anchored in sustainable community development, and it is time to stop actions that exacerbate the crisis,” she said.
As an example, Reyes Cruz pointed to the indiscriminate felling of trees and construction in natural areas.
Planner Lyvia Rodríguez del Valle said Puerto Rico is in a unique moment for taking action. The island government’s budget for the next fiscal year must show that adequate resources are being allocated for adequate actions, in all areas, taking into account the impact of climate change.
“We are at a unique juncture: Millions of dollars in mitigation funds for infrastructure, research, database creation and recovery are available,” she said. “The use of these funds requires a common thread with the climate issue and social justice. We cannot waste millions of dollars on actions that will later be undone by the climate crisis.”
For this reason, the groups emphasized that “solutions to climate problems must always be based on climate justice and give special attention to vulnerable segments [of the population] impoverished by social inequality,” said Ariadna Godreau Aubert of Puerto Rico Legal Aid.
Spokespersons for the initiative highlighted as an essential point of their claims that land use planning must respond to sustainability in the face of the climate crisis.
“It is not possible to say that the climate crisis is being addressed at the same time that our soil is being depleted, without a territorial model adapted to climate change and without a uniform risk management policy,” said Pedro Cardona Roig, a planner and architect. “For this reason, one of our demands is that the approved Joint Regulation of Permits be repealed and a broad process begun for a new regulation in keeping with what is stated here.”
One of the highlights of the declaration was the need to protect the coasts, and in particular the areas that function as natural coastal barriers.