April 22, 2016
Today marks a very important day for two reasons. One it is Earth Day, the most important day of the year for environmentalists and the environmental movement as a whole. Two, the signing of the Paris Agreement (which may very well be one of the most significant global accords of our generation) is taking place today, making this years Earth Day one of the most important in history.
I am filled with excitement knowing that today, leaders from 160 countries around the world will be gathering at the United Nations in New York to officially sign the Agreement. It is predicted that this will be the largest same-day signing in the history of international accords, which I find very fascinating. Furthermore, this accord is unique in the sense that it is essentially the first of its kind to take action in uniting such a large number of countries.
The Paris Agreement not only requires these countries to undertake commitments to action (aka ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’) regarding global emissions. But further, it necessitates countries to review and re-evaluate these pledges every five years, beginning with “global stocktaking” in the year 2023. Another beneficial clause worked into this agreement is that countries are actually unable to lower their targets, and instead, they are pressured to elevate their commitment with each year that passes.
Although the first adoption of this was in December of last year, today marks the actual singing, thus resulting in the countries officially accepting the agreement. After the agreement is signed and accepted, the final step is uniting at the national level by way of executive and/or legislative action. As the UN Foundation Blog notes:
For the agreement to “enter into force,” it must be accepted by at least 55 countries that together produce 55% of the world’s emissions. China and the United States alone, who recently announced that they would join the agreement, produce nearly 40% of the world’s emissions between them. Then comes implementation, when countries “put their money where their mouths are” and act upon the specific national commitments they’ve made.
You can learn more and follow the conversation by using the hashtag #ParisAgreement. Another great way to stay informed today is to check out the live UN stream of the signing, which is what I’ll be doing!
It was instilled upon me from a young age that Earth Day was a very important day. I have flashbacks to an elementary school assembly where teachers spoke about the importance of recycling and the conservation of energy, which was followed by us going outside and spending the rest of the afternoon picking up garbage. I know that this stuff is still taught to children in school, but I can’t help feel as though it bears less weight in todays fast-paced, modern, technology-based society. We are too caught up in our individualistic habits, that unfortunately, we too often take this beautiful planet for granted. We are all aware of this sad reality. The fact that we need this sort of an agreement, and the urgency associated with such, really does speak for itself.
I urge you all to please use today as a reminder to take a step back from your busy schedule, and devote some time to admiring and appreciating the earth. There are many activities we do every single day that are negatively affecting the planet on a much larger scale. Our actions shouldn’t just matter for the purpose of today, they should matter everyday. Today should be a reminder that we all, myself included, can and should be incorporating and practicing green initiatives more frequently in our everyday lives.
Sabatage Earth Day Tips:
* Reduce your food waste. This is number one on my list, and a personal priority at all times! Approximately 35% of food goes uneaten in developed countries, which deeply disturbs me. Having worked in the restaurant industry, I witnessed way too much food being wasted and it always struck a nerve. In Toronto, we have an amazing organization called Second Harvest, which picks up donated or surplus food which would otherwise go to waste, and delivers the food to agencies around Toronto. Dedicate some time to tracking down something similar in your community!
*Stop using plastic water bottles. Swap your plastic water bottles out for a reusable one.
*Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. You can purchase reusable bags at nearly every supermarket, and this helps you save money as well.
*Buy a reusable lunchbox and/or reusable coffee mug for work. Bringing your lunch in reusable containers, and using washable vs. plastic utensils also helps cut down on waste.
*Eat less meat. One vegan meal saves more water than skipping 176 showers, as we all know the meat industry consumes a large amount of energy. If you are unable to sacrifice meat entirely, challenge yourself to cutting meat out of your diet once a week (i.e. ‘Meatless Mondays’).
*Buy local grown food. This cuts down pollution created by transportation.
*Avoid purchasing pre-packaged food. A lot of the packaging and plastic wrap on food and groceries is unnecessary and ends up in the garbage. Try not to be persuaded by attractive packing.
*Walk, bike, or take the public transit to work. This one is pretty obvious, but a lot of us are guilty of not practicing this often enough.
*Reduce the number of one-time-use items you buy. I.e. paper towels. Keep several rags or cloths handy as an alternative.
*Unplug! Even though you may not be using your phone charger to charge your phone, if it remains plugged into the wall, it is still using energy. Try to be mindful and make it a habit to unplug the cords you aren’t using.
*Apple x Earth Day. Apple’s ‘Apps for Earth’ section has a number of apps that have been overhauled in support of Earth Day. This is a partnership with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and all proceeds go directly to supporting environmental conservation.
Check out the links below for two great speeches from the Paris Agreement Opening Speeches! Theres a ton of other great videos from todays ceremony which can also be found on www.webtv.un.org.