On April 22, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) commemorates Earth Day. In line with this year’s theme, “Restore our Earth,” USAID recognizes the need for global progress in environmental protection and reiterate our commitment to meet the urgent environmental challenges we face.
Communities in the United States and across the world rely on a healthy natural environment. USAID’s environmental programs and partnerships are essential for protecting our climate, health, and security; from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to preventing ocean plastic and air pollution to conserving critical ecosystems and biodiversity, USAID is working on the front lines of some of the greatest challenges of our time.
But the threats we face are mounting, particularly with regard to climate change. Global average temperatures are rising. And a changing climate is resulting in increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires – which affect the health and safety of communities around the world. Without urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero and invest in sustainable development, climate change could push 100 million people into extreme poverty in the next decade.
Meanwhile, more than half of the world’s tropical forests—which serve as critical carbon sinks—have been destroyed since the 1960s. Human activities have altered the natural habitat of wildlife species which can significantly increase the risk of zoonotic pathogens and potentially lead to pandemic events. Conserving and restoring tropical forests and their wildlife are some of the most immediate steps we can take to reduce the risk of future pandemics.
This year, Earth Day takes on a new significance. Right now, President Biden is convening countries from around the world for a Leaders Summit on Climate to raise global ambition to combat the climate crisis.
Recognizing climate change’s disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable, USAID is working to elevate local voices, and empower marginalized communities and Indigenous Peoples to be agents of change on climate and the environment.
In the spirit of “Restore our Earth,” I encourage our partners around the world to join me today in reflecting on how we can contribute to making our world healthier, cleaner, safer, and more resilient—for our benefit, and for that of generations to come.