Earth Day 2015: It’s Our Turn to Lead

April 22 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and this year’s theme is “It’s Our Turn to Lead.”  It is a day to remind ourselves of our responsibility to be good stewards of the air we breathe, to protect and preserve our precious ocean resources, and to redouble our effort to combat the scourge of wildlife trafficking around the world.

It is an opportunity to highlight the devastating effects that climate change is having on the world.  Climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling its impacts across our country and around the globe.  Climate change has the potential to exacerbate existing problems, such as ill health, poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, environmental degradation, and brings new challenges to human development and global and regional stability.

The ocean is in trouble.  Critical fish stocks are declining, coral reefs are dying and marine debris is littering even the remotest sea.   In fact, it is estimated that if we continue on our current path unabated, over the next decade, for every three tons of fish in the ocean there will be one ton of plastic.  And, marine species are being threatened with extinction.  But there is hope because we can work together to make a difference. The United States is partnering across the globe to improve waste management systems and stem the flow of plastics entering our seas. We must continue working together to charge ahead and find innovative ways to protect our ocean.  More than one third of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, and all of us – no matter where we live – depend on the ocean for the food we eat and the air we breathe.

On Earth Day, it is critical that we also recognize the animal world with which we share our planet, and to commit ourselves to protecting our shared natural heritage from the poaching and trade in illegal wildlife products that are decimating so many species.   One of the challenges is that wildlife trafficking is highly lucrative, and generates billions of dollars in black market revenues each year.  The risks to security and stability are great.  This is one of the reasons why together we must remain deeply committed to stamping out the illegal trade of wildlife.

The United States is steadfast in its commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with the Government of Guyana to help ensure that future generations will be able to breathe clean air and enjoy the vast natural resources of Guyana.