Introduction to Earth Day Conference on Climate Change by Ambassador Terence P. McCulley

 Ambassador Terence P. McCulley during his speech (Dpt of State)

Thank you for being here today to join me in celebrating Earth Day and talking about the important issue of climate change.  Each year, Earth Day gives us the opportunity to highlight the importance of preserving and protecting the world around us, not just for the present, but for future generations.  Each year, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day-related activities in more than 190 countries, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Regardless of where you are from – here in Abidjan, or the state of Oregon, where I grew up – the Earth below our feet is our most precious resource.  However, earlier this month, an alarming report was released by the United Nations which highlighted that the damage we are causing our planet through global warming is much more severe and the effects moving far more rapidly than we previously believed.

The report outlines potential disasters that could happen in the immediate future if changes are not made.  The list of catastrophes includes massive flooding of coastal cities, highly unpredictable and dangerous weather patterns and widespread famine as a result of drought.

In the United States, average temperatures have already increased by two degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years.  While that may not sound like much, another recent report found a very high probability that unless we act now, temperatures could rise by nine degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.  The effects on agriculture, water sources and energy would be disastrous if this were to happen.  The good news is that there is much we can do to address these challenges.

President Obama has announced a comprehensive action plan which includes actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.

Last week the Government of Côte d’Ivoire sponsored a workshop that outlined efforts to reduce pollution in the ocean, lagoons and along beaches.  I commend the government’s efforts.

This year for Earth Day, the Department of State is focusing its attention on green cities, or the process of making an entire city more energy efficient, less wasteful and cleaner.  Advances in science, new community initiatives and new government policies are working toward solving big and small problems in our cities.  Although many measures to reverse global warming require the cooperation of governments and international efforts, there are also things we can do in our own neighborhoods to make our world cleaner and safer and to reduce global warming.

The U.S. Embassy is doing its part to help and I would encourage you all to join us.  This Saturday, April 26, volunteers from the Embassy and I will join with volunteers from PARO-CI, who has helped organize today’s conference, to clean the intersection FIGAYO in Yopougon.  While spending a few hours cleaning a small area may not seem like much, if everyone in Yopougon and around the city put in just a little bit of time each week and focus on reducing the amount of trash produced, Abidjan would be much cleaner.

The challenges facing our planet are not the isolated challenges of one community or one country but will require individuals, communities and nations working together to make a difference.  However, it all starts with the action of just a few people.  The fact that you are here today demonstrates that you are willing and interested and I thank you for your passion.  Together, we can work to create a healthier, greener, more sustainable planet.

Thank you.