Today, the world will commemorate the 53rd annual Earth Day. Created in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day serves as an annual battlecry for the global community to rally together to protect our most valuable resource, our shared home. This year’s theme, Invest in Our Planet, reminds us of our critical, collective duty to steward, nurture, and dedicate resources to our earth.
This Earth Day’s call to invest in our planet comes in the face of pressing threats. The Amazon rainforest is nearing a dangerous tipping point; an additional loss of just 3 percent of the remaining Amazon to deforestation could disrupt the entire Amazonian ecosystem, leading to the death of the rainforest as we know it, spiking global temperatures, and catalyzing a chain reaction of irrecoverable losses of biodiversity, water reservoirs, and natural resources across South America and beyond, as far away as the Western United States. Last month, the world’s scientists released a “Survival Guide for Humanity,” reiterating that with each tenth of a degree of warming, even more extreme heat waves will ravage communities, floods will decimate cities, and more frequent and intense droughts will threaten crop yields and drive mass displacement — rolling back the development progress USAID and its partners have made over decades.
But we already know what we need to do to put us on a safer trajectory: improve energy efficiency, deploy more renewable energy, protect global biodiversity, conserve carbon-rich ecosystems such as tropical forests, and support communities to build their resilience to a changing climate. The task is to implement these solutions, and to do so with urgency.
USAID is answering the call. Last Earth Day, we launched our ambitious Climate Strategy to guide our work in this decisive decade for climate action. This year, we launched new efforts to conserve the Amazon rainforest. We rolled out new cross-sectoral efforts to counter corruption in the green energy transition and build gender equality into our climate programming. Additionally, we are striving for progress beyond our programs by harnessing the power of the private sector to tackle climate challenges. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) Private-Sector Call to Action, USAID mobilized companies including Google, Meta, Microsoft, Mastercard, and PepsiCo to commit to building climate resilience. Our Missions and partners are doing everything from helping farmers adopt climate-smart food growing practices to restoring degraded lands in order to help build communities’ resilience to the changing climate.
At USAID, we are also reforming our own operations. In line with President Biden’s call to action for federal agencies, we set a target for USAID to reduce operational emissions by 65 percent by FY 2030 and be net-zero by 2050. Already, our Bureau for Global Health and Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance are working to reduce their global supply chain footprints, including by reducing packaging waste and swapping carbon-intensive air freight for greener ocean freight for transport.
On this Earth Day, let us recommit to investing in our planet together — combining our resources, drawing upon our diverse strengths, and working together to build a healthier and more resilient world for all of us.