Earth Day is today, April 22. It is also, not coincidentally, the first day that the historic Paris Climate Agreement is open for signing. To mark the day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders from all countries to attend a high-level signing ceremony at the United Nations in New York City to further engage leaders from business and civil society to put the new agreement into action.
This is huge to put it mildly. The Paris Climate Agreement, you may recall, was reached last December in Paris by 196 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to combat climate change that will spur actions and investment towards a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future. It is the first agreement that joins all nations in a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities, according to the UN. But the Paris Climate Agreement doesn’t simply leave responsibility of the Earth’s future in the hands of leaders and governments – it acknowledges it’s powerless unless all citizens do their part:
Agreeing to uphold and promote regional and international cooperation in order to mobilize stronger and more ambitious climate action by all Parties and non-Party stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities, local communities and indigenous peoples (https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf)
This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: think globally, act locally. Actions you take in your own business, your own community and your own home can have an enormous ripple effect.
Your first, immediate responsibility, if you’re a U.S. citizen and over 18, is to register to vote, if you’re not already. Then to ensure the Paris Climate Agreement becomes a reality by voting for candidates who support climate action. Educate yourself on candidates’ platforms side by side here. Start paying close attention to the actions of your local government and voting habits of your elected officials. Are they doing all they can to protect your Earth? Speak out if they’re not; and praise them if they are! This is a democracy; they answer to you.
Start putting your money where your mouth is…literally. You as a consumer have the power to drive the market, so enact change by making well-informed, environmentally responsible purchasing choices. When you can walk, bike or take public transportation, do it. Put as little as possible into the landfills – reduce, reuse, recycle and compost. Conserve water. Buy local products. Bring reusable bags everywhere. Plant a tree.
You know this; you’ve heard it countless times before. But in 2016, take it to heart; act vigilantly on the Earth’s behalf. What the Paris Climate Agreement’s urgency makes clear is that our Earth is fragile and won’t be around forever if we don’t work together to do all we can right now.
Happy Earth Day!