Today marks the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, one of the world’s largest secular observances in which more than a billion people around the globe recognize the need to invest in our planet. People are celebrating by planting trees, picking up litter, demonstrating in their communities, and asking policymakers and leaders from their communities to support this year’s Earth Day theme to #InvestInOurPlanet.
Since its inception, Earth Day has been a driving force in convincing governments to create policies and legislation that helps protect our planet and make necessary investments in securing our future.
Earth Day Begins
After the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill released 3 million gallons of crude-oil into the ocean and devastated marine life, Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) called for a day of environmental action – “Earth Day”- to force the issue of environmental protection onto the national agenda.
It was a massive success – over 20 million people across the United States participated in the first iteration of Earth Day in 1970. The momentum it created led to the formation of domestic environmental legislation, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later that year.
Earth Day Goes Global
In 1990, Earth Day was celebrated internationally for the first time by 200 million people in 141 countries. It was a day of global collaboration as people around the world participated in rallies, service projects, conferences, and outdoor activities. It was the first global demonstration, at this scale, to recognize that climate change and other environmental issues, like unchecked pollution, require a global response.
International policymakers took note. The momentum of the 1990 and 1991 Earth Days led to the landmark signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro in 1992. The UNFCCC directly resulted in the signings of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and later, the 2015 Paris Agreement, two important global agreements to limit global warming through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Today’s Earth Day comes at a consequential moment in the fight against climate change. On April 4th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their third working group report titled Mitigation of Climate Change, which details ways to reduce emissions.
Building on a previous report, which found that only immediate action to cut global greenhouse gas emissions will limit global warming to 1.5 °C, it lists actions that can be taken by policymakers around the globe to mitigate the most disastrous consequences of global warming, including:
Ultimately, it finds that “international cooperation is a critical enabler for achieving ambitious climate change mitigation goals.” Meeting the moment, this year’s Earth Day theme encourages people and governments everywhere to form a “partnership for our planet”.
U.S. Global Leadership in Fighting Climate Change
At this pivotal moment, the United States cannot afford to take a backseat on global climate leadership to help those disproportionately affected by climate change. Luckily, as USGLC’s 2021 Report on Reports made clear, there is growing bipartisan consensus for supporting climate diplomacy, investing in climate resiliency, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
In low- and middle-income countries, about 2.5 billion people’s ability to make a living depends on climate-sensitive activities, like agriculture, pastoralism, and fisheries. To date, the United States is the largest global provider of development assistance earmarked for multilateral climate change and environmental funds and programs. For fiscal year 2023, the Biden Administration requested nearly $2.29 billion to provide multilateral institutions that support “developing countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change and building resilience, and investing in sustainable infrastructure.”
Through American-led development and diplomacy initiatives, funded via the International Affairs Budget, U.S. global leadership is advancing solutions to climate issues and meeting 2022 Earth Day’s call to #InvestInOurPlanet by:
A strong International Affairs Budget protects our planet and supports the billions of people negatively impacted by climate change. These investments are critical to addressing the climate crisis and building a better, safer world.