With almost daily headlines sounding the alarm of a changing global climate, it might feel like there isn’t much to celebrate this Earth Day. Record warm temperatures, rising sea-levels threatening coastal communities, unprecedented wildfires, and cycles of flooding, drought and famine have led our armed forces to designate climate change as a “threat multiplier.”
As Americans, we can either pessimistically turn our backs on this mounting evidence, or we can lead the world with a sense of mission that global climate solutions are possible.
This Earth Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate our momentum towards a healthier future for our families, and to call for continued action.
Last December, nearly every country on the planet came together to achieve a historic climate agreement, and this Earth Day, leaders from around the world will sign the Paris Climate Agreement in New York City.
For years, critics of U.S. climate efforts pointed to a lack of international climate cooperation as a reason not to act. Yet, thanks to the Paris Climate Agreement, major greenhouse gas emitters like China are formally committing to taking aggressive action to invest in clean energy and efficiency. That’s a reason to celebrate.
Just last month, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors. With methane having a warming potential many times greater than carbon dioxide, this commitment is critical to changing the trajectory of our changing climate.
Domestically, we’ve made tremendous progress over the last year to limit our emissions and carbon footprint. The Environmental Protection Agency has set the first ever limits on carbon pollution from the power sector with the Clean Power Plan. While a goal of cutting carbon pollution 32 percent by 2030 might be ambitious, it’s attainable. And many states are already on their way to meeting the plan’s goals through state energy efficiency policies and renewable portfolio standards.
Our marked progress has been evident through President Obama’s leadership on climate change. From his rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, to his protection of the Atlantic coast from offshore drilling, to opening up more opportunities for clean energy development, the president has set an important national tone that will have a lasting positive impact for generations to come.
Consumers and businesses have a reason to celebrate this Earth Day, too. Congress’ year-end decision to extend clean energy tax credits will ensure that new wind and solar projects continue to provide low-cost power for years to come. Moreover, since 2009, the Department of Energy has issued 40 new or updated efficiency standards, which are projected to save consumers more than $540 billion on their utility bills through 2030. Critical investments made through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have supported these energy efficiency standards and contributed to further technological innovation that has drastically lowered costs for clean and carbon-free energy sources.
Collectively, these actions and many others across federal, state, and local governments, in academia and the private sector, have put us on a path toward a more sustainable future.
Undoubtedly there is much, much more to be done — especially in Congress — but on this Earth Day, let’s celebrate these significant victories.
Reps. Gerry Connolly (VA), Doris Matsui (CA), and Paul Tonko (NY) serve as co-chairs of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition..