Exchange Matters / April 19, 2021

Saving our Planet One Virtual Handshake at a Time

By Janice Brummond, Office of International Visitors, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

During last month’s National Meeting keynote address, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry reiterated the climate crisis clarion that scientists, non-governmental coalitions, youth, and other activists have been sounding since 195 Parties established the Paris Agreement in 2015. As announced on Inauguration Day, the Biden Administration has rejoined the Paris Agreement, and has already begun to put in place policies that promise to bring sweeping transformations to the way the United States interacts with the world on climate challenges.

Some of the most important steps we can take, collectively, to combat climate change include:

  • Reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2050
  • Keeping at least 30 percent of our water and land protected to rescue the million species at risk of extinction
  • Eliminating or diverting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollutants before they reach the atmosphere
  • Investing in new transportation technologies
  • Revamping the electricity grid away from fossil fuels
  • Improving building standards and practices to conserve energy, water, and other natural resources
  • Boosting public awareness and political action to recognize the threats of climate change to human and natural survival and collectively act to repair, restore, and recommit to our planet

These goals require action not only by nations and their governments, but also by individuals, communities, businesses, organizations, and civil society writ large. Each of us has a stake in the discussions and solutions. International exchanges like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) provide critical opportunities for a global sharing of insights and strategies to counter environmental challenges.

On April 19, alumni of the IVLP will begin a virtual Salon Series on Strategies for Climate Action in partnership with the U.S. Department of State Office of Oceans, Environment, and Science (OES), and FHI 360, a Global Ties U.S. National Program Agency (NPA). Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Members (CBMs) from four U.S. states will demonstrate the work being done from the grassroots level through state and national efforts and facilitate vital conversations that encourage sustained collaboration. Through this Salon Series, IVLP alumni from over 35 multi-regional and regional projects on environmental protection, energy, infrastructure development, and disaster management will reengage with each other and their U.S. counterparts to share practical ways of tackling the scope and scale of climate-related challenges.

Beginning in Kalamazoo, MI (Colleagues International — note: the CBM is changing its name to Global Ties Kalamazoo), IVLP alumni and interested audiences will hear how local and state energy and economic policies in the United States can support the Biden Administration’s renewed international climate commitments. They will begin to develop strategies for short-term and long-term actions, based on realistic frameworks from their respective countries and fields of expertise.

During Earth Week, April 19-25, 2021, alumni and interested participants may virtually attend local U.S. events such as the Global Youth Climate Summit, the Hip-Hop Caucus of We Shall Breathe, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Seminar on the UN Ocean Decade, or Earth Day Live.  They also may participate in Embassy-sponsored activities within their home countries or regions. The alumni group will be invited to follow the discussions of President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate, which will bring together leaders of 40 countries to underscore the urgency – and the economic promise – of stronger climate action.

Next, Salon Series participants will examine how strategic investments in climate solutions can manage economic dislocations and reduce social disparities, using Orlando, FL (WorldOrlando) as a case study.  Participants will interact with local government and regional experts in Boston, MA (WorldBoston) to assess energy and infrastructure transformations. Colleagues at Global Ties San Francisco and Global Ties Sacramento, both based in northern California, will bring together federal, state, and local scientists, policymakers, and activists to discuss nature-based solutions to foster environmental resilience to protect our oceans and prepare for climate-related disasters from excessive rain (or drought), fires, and earthquakes.

Participants also will share their countries’ best practices for protecting coastal and ocean resources, optimizing values for forest and other natural landscapes, and minimizing the impacts of natural disasters. The Salon Series wraps up on May 4 with the participants plotting a collective course for combining their expertise and enthusiasm into strategic and sustained climate actions.

The IVLP and other international exchanges in concert with program partners, and especially the Global Ties Network, provide a critical path for supporting the efforts of individuals, communities, and governments to safeguard our planet.

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”   —Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space