Happy Earth Day 2016

The first Earth Day was 46 years ago and today we sign one of the most historic agreements on climate change ever.

History

Earth Day wasn’t originally on this date, April 22, at all. In 1969 at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco, activist John McConnell presented the idea of having a day focused on caring for the Earth  on the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere: March 21. April 22 became the date we celebrate Earth Day due to a teach-in about environmental issues arranged by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson on this date in 1970. Senator Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, for his environmental activism and founding of the holiday.

Today #ParisAgreement

On December 12, 2015, 195 countries of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change approved the Paris Agreement by consensus. Described in Article 2, the agreement’s aim is threefold:

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

Each country is responsible for its own “nationally determined contribution” towards this aim. France’s foreign minister and head of the Paris Conference, Laurent Fabius, said this “ambitious and balanced” plan is a “historic turning point” in the goal of reducing global warming.

Get Involved

You can watch the historic signing of the Paris Agreement live. You can also become a citizen signer, adding your voice to the “millions already calling for global climate action,” reminding leaders that on this Earth Day 2016, people around the Earth have joined to defend and care for it.

Whether you sign the agreement or not, we must take action to protect our world. How will you pledge to be more sustainable in 2016?  By the end of this year, UGACR will have planted over 40,000 trees in our quest to become carbon neutral. Of course, alone, each of us cannot accomplish a feat like this, but, as a Fit4Earth student from San Jose told me during the sustainability workshop I taught last week, “Our actions are but a drop of water, but the ocean would be less without it.”

 

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