40th Anniversary of Earth Day: A Day of Celebration By US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., D. Brent Hardt

D. Brent Hardt is Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of the United States of America to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean

D. Brent Hardt is Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of the United States of America to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean

The first Earth Day, organized in 1970 in the United States, launched the modern environmental movement. Some 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to decry trends toward increased pollution and environmental degradation and demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Rising environmental awareness during that period led the U.S. government to establish the Environmental Protection Agency in late 1970 and to enact ground-breaking legislation, the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Clean Water Act of 1972.

Under President Obama, the U.S. has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than ever before, setting domestic policies that advance clean energy and climate security and vigorously engaging in climate change negotiations. Last December in Copenhagen, world leaders agreed on the Copenhagen Accord, which requires actions by all major economies to mitigate climate change, transparency to see that those actions are taken, and financing and technology support for the poorest and most vulnerable nations. The United States will join a global effort to mobilize financing to help countries adapt to climate change. This financing will, for example, help prevent deforestation in regions with tropical forests, such as Central and South America, Central Africa and Southeast Asia.

The U.S. is also dedicated to improving access to clean water. In 2005, the U.S. Congress passed the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which makes access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries a specific policy objective of our foreign assistance programs.

U.S. President Barack Obama uses a backhoe as he plants trees at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, April 21, 2009 {Courtesy Reuters Blogs}

U.S. President Barack Obama uses a backhoe as he plants trees at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, April 21, 2009 {Courtesy Reuters Blogs}

As we celebrate Earth Day, the United States looks forward to engaging with its partners in the Caribbean region on a host of programs designed to address the consequences of global climate change. In addition to the multilateral fund being established under the Copenhagen Accord, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is ready to launch complementary initiatives for the Eastern Caribbean to address climate change adaptation. Further U.S. engagement on these issues, however, is contingent upon partners who have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord.

At the April 15-16 Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted new initiatives that the U.S. Department of State is sponsoring under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) to expand energy and climate cooperation throughout the region. The U.S. Embassy is already working with local partners to promote conservation and alternative energy in the Eastern Caribbean, and seeking opportunities for further collaboration with these countries. Dominica was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for one of three alternative energy grants which will, in turn, benefit other regional partners. A second grant to the Organization of American States will support a dialogue with Caribbean energy officials and institutions, donor governments, multilateral institutions, and the private sector to explore indigenous resources and the potential role of electrical interconnections via sub-sea cables. Eastern Caribbean countries are among the beneficiaries of this grant. To accelerate clean energy deployment, the initiative will also provide legal and technical advice to governments considering new renewable energy projects.

Today, our planet needs the commitment of all countries across the globe to preserve and protect all of the earth’s resources. While we take time to recognize our achievements, we should not lose sight of the challenges that remain. Working together, the United States and our partners in the Caribbean can continue to build upon the legacy of the modern environmental movement that began forty years ago and build a cleaner, more energy efficient world in the years ahead.

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