Today we celebrate Earth Day! This marks the 51st anniversary of this important worldwide event. It is estimated that one billion people around the world mobilize for action on Earth Day each year. This impressive level of turnout is a powerful statement that testifies to the importance of people coming together to address some of the most critical challenges that our environment faces. Each year, Armenians and Americans alike gather in their communities to clean up trash, plant trees, or simply appreciate the bounty of nature. The success of Earth Day and our collective efforts to improve the environment depends in no small measure on the efforts of regular citizens working with others in their local communities. When it comes to Earth Day and protecting our environment, I am reminded of the wisdom in the old saying, “think globally, act locally.”
For this year’s Earth Day, we should be ambitious in our efforts to protect the planet and restore our environment. Of course, with ambition comes a need for leadership. In his inaugural address, President Biden said, “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example. We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.” President Biden then followed this statement with a series of actions that commit the United States to meet the many global environmental challenges that we face today.
Those actions stand out for the ambitious targets they set. The Administration has committed the United States to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, a goal we are encouraging other countries to adopt. The United States is also moving forward with plans to achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, creating a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050, and dramatically improving waste management and energy and water efficiency.
Action on climate change is embedded in our foreign policy, diplomacy, and national security. We are engaged in a wide variety of efforts on climate change, including preparing to meet emission targets under the Paris Agreement, creating a climate finance plan, and holding a Leaders Summit on Climate that coincides with this year’s Earth Day. That Summit represents a critical milestone on the road to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) this November in Glasgow. The Summit is focused in particular on galvanizing efforts by the world’s major economies to keep within reach the vital goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. I encourage everyone to follow this Summit and its outcomes. You can also find important information about climate issues and climate change at www.climate.gov.
But Earth Day is not just about climate issues. There are many other important environment issue areas that deserve our close attention. Even better, they are areas in which we can all find ways to get involved and make a difference as individuals and communities. For instance, we can work together to combat air, water, and plastic pollution; protect natural ecosystems; conserve and restore forests; promote sustainable agriculture and fisheries; eradicate illegal logging, mining, and fishing; and combat wildlife trafficking, all of which threaten our precious Earth.
The opportunity to work with international organizations, civil society, and other governments to make real progress on all of these issues is energizing. These efforts take place daily throughout the world, including in Armenia. For example, just last year we were able to work with the American University of Armenia to support a project to improve the regulated collection of wild plants in Armenia. The U.S. Forest Service has directly supported schools, students, and educators in Armenia by fostering place-based service learning projects that advance conservation efforts and the sustainability of local communities. These are just a couple examples of the many recent environment-oriented collaborations we have supported in Armenia.
At the end of the day, these efforts cannot succeed without the involvement of the most important audience of all: you. Earth Day—and our greater efforts to protect and restore our Earth—depends on your active participation. I welcome any steps you can take this Earth Day to make the planet more resilient and beautiful to benefit not only ourselves, but those who will inherit the natural wonders we are so fortunate to enjoy today. Whether you decide to participate in a community service action, raise environmental awareness with others in your community, or simply spend just a few minutes to educate yourself about the key environmental issues our world faces today, you will be thinking globally and acting locally to contribute to the success of Earth Day and the health of our planet.