Opinion article written by Ambassador Liliana Ayalde for the newspaper Correio Braziliense and published on April 22, 2016.
On April 22, when people around the world celebrate Earth Day, world leaders made history at the United Nations, in New York. More than one hundred countries today officially signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is a defining moment in the history of our planet, the highest number of signatories to an international agreement on a single day. We are confident that other countries will do the same and we will have a historic, ambitious agreement that could enter into force as soon as possible.
A greener future is in sight. Leaders of cities and countries are making adjustments and innovating, leaving fossil fuels behind. Entrepreneurs are investing in a clean energy economy. The USA is moving forward in its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by between 26% and 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. To do so, we are following the strictest feel saving standards in our history. We have increased solar power generation twenty-fold since 2009 and proposed rules that take in energy conservation standards for appliances to the reduction of methane-rich gasses by municipal solid waste landfills.
In my home state of Maryland, we are working to reduce the harm caused by greenhouse gases by 25% a year until 2020.The state government is committed to taking the best decisions possible in environmental and economic areas, and to implementing efficient climate change strategies. The state has created more than 150 programs and initiatives to reduce annual emissions by 55 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent.
While domestically we are taking significant climate measures, the USA is also focusing on international cooperation to face up to this global challenge. A US$ 500 million contribution we made last month to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the first installment in a US$ 3 billion commitment to the GCF – will help developing countries reduce their carbon emissions and prepare to face up to climate impacts while boosting our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, another important, historic agreement that the world entered into last year.
One of the most successful environmental agreements of all time, the Montreal Protocol, is gradually eliminating substances that deplete the ozone layer. This agreement has prevented millions of cases of skin cancer, among other health, environmental and economic benefits. Hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) – which replace many of the substances that deplete the ozone layer – do not harm the ozone layer but are greenhouse gases which in some cases can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The USA is working with Brazil and other partners to adopt this year an amendment to the Montreal Protocol aiming to phase out HFCs, which may prevent a half-degree Celsius increase in temperature by the end of the century.
We also need international cooperation to change the way we transport people and goods. The aviation sector accounts for 2% of total greenhouse gases in the world. The International Civil Aviation Organization plans to achieve carbon neutral growth for international aviation by 2020. The USA is seeking to enter into a global market agreement in this area that will help the airline industry to meet this ambitious goal.
When our presidents met in June last year, they agreed to work together to reach an ambitious climate agreement in Paris. Since then, representatives of Brazil and the USA have joined forces to put the two presidents’ ideas into action, including the formation of the first High Level Working Group on Climate Change, in October 2015. We also share best practices and policies in the increasing use of renewable energy through the Brazil-US Climate Partnership, an initiative created by the US Mission in Brazil. I am proud to say that our countries have set ambitious goals, playing an important leadership role in the preparation of the December 2015 agreement during COP21.
Today, this 46th Earth Day, the signing of the Paris Agreement is really a reason for hope. It is also a reminder of our shared commitment to combating climate change. We all need to take advantage of the incentive that the Paris agreement offers us to build a clean energy future for us, our children, and our grandchildren. There is no going back in the global fight against climate change.