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Earth Day 2016: Our Planet, Our Opportunity

April 22, 2016 Author: John Hoover, U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone

As people around the globe observe Earth Day on April 22, world leaders are making history at the United Nations in New York. Over 100 countries will sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. This marks a turning point in the story of our planet and may set a record for the largest number of signers to an international agreement in a single day. Moreover, last month, President Obama announced with President Xi Jinping of China that our two countries will sign the Paris Agreement today and formally join this year. We are hopeful other countries including Sierra Leone will do so too, with the intention of bringing this historic and ambitious agreement into force as quickly as possible.

A greener future is already in sight. Leaders of countries and cities are adapting, innovating, and investing in a clean energy economy. The United States is moving forward to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. While we are taking significant climate action domestically, the United States is also focused on international cooperation to address this global challenge. Our $500 million contribution last month to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the first part of the $3 billion U.S. pledge to the GCF – will help developing countries like Sierra Leone reduce carbon emissions and prepare for climate impacts.

Sierra Leone should be proud of the country’s natural environment. From the ocean coastline to Gola Rainforest National Park, Sierra Leone’s biodiversity is extraordinary. But the country is also vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Degradation of the coast is making life harder in coastal communities while deforestation and changing weather patterns will affect agriculture and food security throughout the country.

As we implement the Paris Climate Agreement globally, Sierra Leone and the United States will continue to work together to support the environment. The U.S. Mission is working to contribute to protecting the environment here, both in our workplace and around the country. For example, we recently created a network to support young environmental activists who are shaping the future of Sierra Leone. We are funding a project to protect Sierra Leone’s coastal mangrove forests. Our newly completed Rainwater Harvesting System will make the U.S. Mission in Sierra Leone self-sufficient in water, which will reduce overall demand on the country’s precious water resources.

This Earth Day – with the signing of the Paris Agreement – is truly a cause for hope. It is also a reminder of our shared commitment to protect our planet and combat climate change. We must all seize the momentum from Paris to build a clean energy future for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.