Op-ed by Ambassador Nealon on Earth Day

Every year on April 22 the world celebrates Earth Day. One of the biggest long-term challenges we face today is climate change. According to recent studies by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, Honduras will be one of the countries most affected by climate change, with temperature increases causing rainfall to decrease by 10-20 percent by 2050.

We can already see the effects of global climate change. Honduras has first-hand experience in the destructive capabilities of hurricanes, the impacts of drought on people and businesses, and the effect of warming temperatures on agriculture. The coffee rust in 2012 had outsized impact because higher temperatures allowed the fungus to spread to higher altitudes, where the coffee varieties had no resistance to it.

These events make clear the reality and scale of the problem and push us towards solutions. This will be a long struggle with victory coming from individuals and governments.  The important progress is in small steps aimed at preventing catastrophe from occurring.

I would like to highlight a private sector initiative by Corporación Industrial del Norte, SA (Corinsa) with help from the Inter-American Development Bank to install solar panels at its facility in San Pedro Sula. This project will generate 3 megawatts of photovoltaic solar power with zero emissions, saving 53,000 tons of carbon dioxide over 20 years. The project will allow Corinsa to reduce its energy bill and the system will pay for itself within five years.

The United States government is also involved with climate change mitigation strategies in Honduras that focus on sustainable water use. USAID programs supported 203 water boards and 70 communities in water management and provided efficient irrigation systems to over 3,500 families in the last 5 years. To reduce flooding caused by deforestation and in support of President Hernandez’s initiative, USAID provided eco-stoves to 8,000 households in 2014. USAID also installed nearly 200 household solar panels and some 700 solar driers for coffee and other agricultural products.

Climate change is real and dangerous but there are solutions. Some solutions – such as minimizing the trash we produce or turning off the lights as we leave a room – require changes to our actions; and other solutions – such as installing solar panels or reducing deforestation – require large investments. Both approaches are important parts to the solution and many of these make economic sense as well.

Together, we can leave this world a better place to our children. This Earth Day, I ask you to take five minutes to think about the little – and big – things you can do to help protect our home: planet earth.