Biden's President courtesy of NYTimes

Biden’s Environmental Challenges

By Andy Caviedes, Diego Díaz-Martín, Andrea Alvarez & Eduardo Rivero, (Vitalis USA) (*)

North American citizens have spoken and Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is now the 46th U.S. President-elect. More people than ever have voted in this election, even in the middle of a Pandemic. Democracy was exercised as never before.

Many factors have influenced this decision. Among them, Biden’s position on environmental issues.

At Vitalis, an organization with 20 years’ experience in international environmental conservation matters, we would like to share some environmental challenges for the president-elect. Our purpose is to call to the attention of new authorities’ interest regarding natural resources conservation, public services, and the achievement of sustainable development goals.

Main environmental challenges for the president-elect:

• Climate Change. Democrats are known for believing in the effects of climate change, and they seem committed to protecting America’s natural resources, ensuring the quality of air, water, and land for current and future generations. Current U.S. President Donald Trump ignored this subject, calling climate change “a hoax,” and withdrawing the USA from the Paris Climate Agreement, disregarding the scientific community. We hope Biden’s administration could reverse that mistake.

• Energy Transition. One of the most important changes that the United States would experience within the new environmental administration could be the energy transition. Biden promised important federal spending to ease and facilitate the expansion of renewable energy generation and to drive savings and other carbon reduction technologies while reducing industrial emissions with tough regulations. For all this and more, the strengthening of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is vital.

• Carbon Neutral. Biden assures a fossil emission-free electric power sector by 2035. This would allow the country to become a net-zero emitter by 2050. Among his promises, also is the creation of a Federal Standard for Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity (EECES), which would help provide and guarantee incentives to energy producers to decarbonize operations. This plan not only shows its support for energy sources such as hydroelectric but also provides government investment to promote the installation of millions of solar panels and thousands of wind turbines in order to boost the use and exploitation of renewable technologies.

• Eco-efficiency. From investing in clean energy to protecting our ecosystems, democrats seem committed to addressing some of the biggest environmental challenges, paving the way to more sustainable development in America. That includes the application of the eco-efficiency approach, incentivizing tens of billions of dollars in private sector investment to retrofit 4 million buildings, including weatherization and upgrading energy systems in hospitals, schools, public housing, and municipal buildings, among others. A good example could be the eco-efficiency in federal facilities, including the White House.

• Landscapes and Protected Areas. Democrats have affirmed that they are restoring treasured landscapes. This important matter should be strengthened with the participation of universities, NGOs, and federal institutions. Effectively managed protected areas are a critical tool for safeguarding biodiversity, preserving environmental services, maintaining ecosystem balance, preserving crucial habitats, building resilience to climate change and providing global food security. This is also crucial for maintaining water quality, conserving natural resources, driving economic success, curbing the spread of diseases and pests, and providing many other benefits to wildlife, ecosystems and human health.

• Biodiversity. Biden’s new government should work on preserving over 1,300 endangered or threatened species in the United States. Today this number includes plants and animals that have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct. For this, it is required to strengthen US Fish & Wildlife Service, as well as other national and regional efforts to value and conserve wild species throughout the country.

• Water. Biden’s administration should also cooperate with Local, State, and Federal agencies to collect and treat water, to assure its integrated management nationwide. Issues that affect drinking water supply and sanitation in the United States include water scarcity, pollution, a backlog of investment, concerns about the affordability of water for the poorest, and a rapidly retiring workforce.

• Land conservation & new environmental activities. The new administration should continue to work with local communities conserving and restoring forests, grasslands, and wetlands across America for generations to come and to ensure the integrity of the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, by supporting initiatives that restore rivers, oceans, and watersheds, among other water ecosystems.

• Transportation. Biden’s government should promote sustainable systems to connect the country; protecting, conserving, and restoring wild areas, and reducing negative impacts of urban environments. The promotion of new technologies in transportation systems is an important area, joining efforts with universities, research centers, and other state and federal institutions.

• Solid Waste. North Americans dispose of seven pounds of trash per person every day, which means about 2,555 pounds per American every year. A staggering 90 percent of all raw materials extracted in the U.S. are ultimately dumped into landfills or burned in incinerators. New Federal leaders, jointly with local authorities, should address the integrated Solid Waste Management, combining engineering principles and management practices, with administrative and legal incentives to favor its reduction, reuse, and recycling.

With all this said, the environmental challenges ahead are many.

Vitalis seeks to assist those actions to support the conservation of America’s environment and natural resources. We are convinced that a cleaner environment supports a stronger economy, as the basis for sustainable development.

Vitalis proposes to not wait for the government to take action. We should act together as workers, officials, influencers, journalists, entrepreneurs, scientists, professors, citizens of the public, and the private sector. We all made stronger by working together, for a sustainable future.

We hope that the president-elect’s promises will be fulfilled. From civil society, we will be aware of these environmental issues of importance for the United States of America, and for the entire planet.

(*) More information about Vitalis here Social networks @ONGVitalis. Email:

Pictures courtesy of the New York Times.


¡Buenas Noticias! Acuerdo de Escazú entrará pronto en vigor.

Por Diego Díaz Martín, PhD. (*) @DDiazMartin

El pasado 5 de noviembre, el Senado de México ratificó el Acuerdo de Escazú, decisión que sumada al refrendo de la Cámara de Diputados Argentina del pasado mes de septiembre, permite lograr los 11 países requeridos para su entrada en vigor. Este tratado, garantiza los derechos de acceso a la información, a la participación pública y a la justicia en asuntos ambientales, además ser el primer acuerdo regional que reconoce y garantiza la protección de personas defensoras del ambiente, un tema de especial importancia para América Latina.

Entre otros instrumentos normativos, el Acuerdo de Escazú reafirma la importancia de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos, los principios de la Declaración de la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Medio Humano de 1972 y la Declaración de Río sobre el Medio Ambiente y el Desarrollo de 1992. De igual forma, reconoce la importancia de los ciudadanos y de los defensores de los derechos humanos en asuntos ambientales para el fortalecimiento de la democracia, los derechos de acceso y el desarrollo sostenible.

Además de garantizar la implementación plena y efectiva en América Latina y el Caribe de los derechos de acceso a la información y participación pública en los procesos de toma de decisiones ambientales y acceso a la justicia en asuntos ambientales, el Acuerdo de Escazú propiciará la creación y el fortalecimiento de las capacidades y la cooperación dentro de la región, contribuyendo a la protección del derecho de cada persona, y de las generaciones presentes y futuras, a vivir en un medio ambiente sano y ecológicamente equilibrado.

A pesar de la importancia de este Tratado, Chile, uno de sus impulsores, no lo firmó. Tampoco lo hicieron El Salvador y Venezuela, quienes subestimaron su importancia.

Por su parte, Costa Rica, otro de los países promotores, y sede del Acuerdo, diluyó su entusiasmo y hasta la fecha no lo ha ratificado. Mientras tanto Perú, uno de sus firmantes, decidió “por ahora” no ratificarlo.

Pese a las contradicciones de los mismos gobiermos de la región, y la compleja problemática ambiental existente, la sensatez privó. Por ello el Acuerdo de Escazú entrará en vigor tan pronto sean consignadas las ratificaciones en las Naciones Unidas, lo que permitirá avanzar hacia una mayor protección del medio ambiente y de sus defensores, fortaleciendo el Derecho al Ambiente, como lo hizo el Convenio de Aarhus firmado en Dinamarca en 1998 para Europa.

El Acuerdo de Escazú marca un acontecimiento significativo en la defensa y conservación de nuestros recursos naturales y del desarrollo sostenible en la región que debemos conocer, divulgar y hacer cumplir.

(*) Biólogo, Maestro en Gerencia Ambiental y Doctor en Proyectos de Ingeniería orientados al Desarrollo Sustentable. Director General de Vitalis para Iberoamérica, Estados Unidos y Canadá.