Today, the United States observes the 46th annual Earth Day. The official theme for this year is “Trees for the Earth.” The Earth Day Network has set an ambitious goal to plant 7.8 billion trees before Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020. Embassy staff and family members, U.S. soldiers currently training in Tapa, together with local teachers and students participating in the GLOBE environmental science education program planted trees in the Kuusalu forest as our contribution to this global effort. Estonia has done a commendable job in sustaining its forestry resources.
The first Earth Day in 1970 mobilized 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act soon followed.
Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civil observance in the world. Taken together, small initiatives make a measurable impact on the Earth, making a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable planet.
Why trees? Trees help combat climate change, they help us breathe clean air, and they help communities. In a single year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by driving an average car 26,000 miles. Trees serve as a filter to absorb pollutants from the air. And trees help communities achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability.
HIGH-LEVEL CEREMONY IN NYC TO MARK CLIMATE ACTION
The Paris Climate Agreement, adopted in December, represents a significant turning point in global action on climate change. On Earth Day, the Agreement opens for signature at a high-level ceremony at the UN in New York. Secretary Kerry will sign the agreement for the United States. Minister of the Environment Marko Pomerants will sign it for Estonia. The agreement will come into force only after at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions “join” the agreement through formal instruments of ratification.
Climate Next Step Priorities
The historic Paris Agreement sets the world on a course to a low-carbon future. The State Department’s main climate goals for 2016 are to:
• Spur sustained momentum toward signing and joining the Paris Agreement and accelerating action toward reducing carbon emissions.
• Adopt a hydrofluorocarbon phase down amendment to the Montreal Protocol that could avoid half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century.
• Reach agreement at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly meeting in September on a global market based measure to address emissions from international aviation.
• Raise awareness of and promote action on the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
• Finding bilateral and multilateral opportunities for enhancing climate action globally, including mitigation and adaptation, and to institutionalize this approach within every area of the Department.
• Encourage a whole of society approach to climate mitigation, adaption, and resilience with an emphasis on innovation.