FACT SHEET: President Obama Honors Earth Day with Series of Administration Events and Announcements
“Over four decades ago, Americans from all walks of life came together to tackle a shared challenge. Pollution damaged our health and livelihoods—from children swimming in contaminated streams to workers exposed to dangerous chemicals to city residents living under a thick haze of smog. The first Earth Day was a call to action for every citizen, every family, and every public official. It gave voice to the conservation movement, led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and pushed our Nation to adopt landmark laws on clean air and water. This Earth Day, we remember that when Americans unite in common purpose, we can overcome any obstacle.” – President Barack Obama, Earth Day Proclamation, April 22, 2014
In the past year, the Administration has taken significant executive action to prepare our Nation for the impacts of climate change. Since President Barack Obama took office, America has doubled clean energy production, and we have brought carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades. In the international community, we are working with our partners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the globe. Federal agencies have led by example to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases while implementing renewable energy projects that make our Nation more secure and resilient. Along with states, utilities, health groups, and advocates, we are working to develop commonsense and achievable carbon pollution standards for our biggest pollution source—power plants.
Administration Officials Participate in Events Across the Country
Senior officials across the Obama Administration are commemorating the 44th anniversary of Earth Day with a series of events and announcements. At this year’s events, officials will underscore the Administration’s commitment to building a more resilient country – while cutting carbon pollution to help keep our air and water clean and protect our kids and working to take on the most dramatic effects of climate change.
Officials are participating in events all over the country – from Des Moines, Iowa, where Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke on the state of climate change policy at Drake University to Boston, Massachusetts, where Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to discuss how climate change is impacting the Boston Harbor. The events, though broadly focused on the global threat of climate change, cover a range of topics. For example, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan spoke on strategies for creating sustainable urban environments at a New York Times forum in New York City, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden highlighted how NASA is working to better understand and predict changes to the planet as part of Earth Day at Union Station, a celebration in Washington, DC, that also features interactive exhibits from NASA.
Administration Action on Earth Day
In addition to this year’s events, the Administration is making a series of announcements aimed at recognizing our nation’s outstanding leaders and partners who are working to prepare our nation for the impacts of climate change, equipping our nation’s infrastructure for the needs of the future, and leading by example in the Federal Government.
Recognizing outstanding leaders and partners:
· U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. The U.S. Department of Education honored 48 schools for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. In addition nine districts were honored for the District Sustainability Award. Learn more here.
· Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards. The Department of Defense announced the winners of the 2014 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards, which honor individuals, teams and installations for outstanding achievements in environmental performance. Over the past 10 years, the Department of Defense has invested approximately $42 billion to ensure the success of its environmental programs, an investment that protects and sustains the environment while strengthening operational capacity, reducing operational costs, and enhancing the well-being of military members, civilians, and their families and communities. Learn more here.
Equipping our nation’s infrastructure for the needs of the future:
· Quadrennial Energy Review. The Administration will continue its efforts to institute a Quadrennial Energy Review, a part of the President’s Climate Action Plan. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz convened a two-part public meeting in Providence, R.I. and Hartford, Conn. to receive stakeholder input to the Review, an administration-wide effort to make recommendations regarding key infrastructure needed for transmission, storage and distribution of energy, taking into account our energy and climate goals and the impacts of climate change. Learn more here.
· Awards to universities to study impacts on agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $6 million in grants to 10 universities to study the effects of climate change on agriculture production and develop strategies that will help farmers and ranchers continue to supply the nation with quality food in the face of a changing climate. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's climate-related work is focused on developing solutions that help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration in agricultural and forest production systems and prepare the nation's agriculture and forest systems to adapt to changing climates. USDA is working towards these goals by supporting: 1) the development of new varieties of plants and new management strategies for adaptation to climate variability; 2) the sustainable use of natural resources and sustainable rural economies; 3) new efficiencies that help reduce the use of energy, nitrogen fertilizer, and water; and 4) increased carbon sequestration through resilient agriculture and forest production. Learn more here.
· Investment to improve rural water and wastewater systems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $387 million investment to improve rural water and wastewater systems in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Climate change in particular is putting more stress on municipal water systems. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. These grants will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment. Learn more here.
Leading by example in the Federal Government:
· Actions to reduce the Federal Government’s footprint. The U.S. General Services Administration announced consolidation projects that will shrink the federal government’s footprint and further efforts to consolidate agencies within existing federally owned space. The FY14 Consolidated Appropriations Act provided GSA with $67 million for consolidation projects across the country, which will reduce the government’s physical and environmental footprint. GSA’s consolidation program will save taxpayer dollars by reducing agency dependence on leased space, increase energy and water conservation, and reduce the total amount of space occupied by the government. Learn more here.
· Groundbreaking for U.S. Military’s largest solar installation. Following up on last week’s announcement, the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration will host a groundbreaking ceremony for a solar installation project at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The solar array project, the U.S. Military’s largest, is expected to exceed 18-megawatts. GSA negotiated a 10-year public utility contract, which will provide 25 percent of the base's power. Learn more here.
· State Department announces international oceans conference. Secretary John Kerry announced that the State Department will host an “Our Ocean” international oceans conference at the Department of State June 16-17. The conference will build on the United States’ commitment to protect the ocean, and will elevate the visibility of ocean protection as a key element of U.S. foreign policy. It will focus on three areas: Marine Pollution, Ocean Acidification, and Sustainable Fisheries and showcase best practices in global marine conservation. The conference seeks to open new channels of political influence by broadening engagement on ocean issues to include foreign ministry leaders, to supplement the traditional roles that environment and fishery-related agencies have taken. Learn more here.