This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
It’s necessary for us to care about our planet and find ways to pitch in to protect it every day. But on Earth Day, it’s more important than ever to remember the leaders working on solutions. In 2020, the leaders in the green arena are striving to create a powerful force against even the most unprecedented circumstances that could be hurting our planet.
Legislators and politicians are making serious changes in the world to save the environment — whether this means crafting the Green New Deal or spearheading efforts to combat the immense ongoing wildfires that are plaguing the world. With an unwavering commitment to helping combat one of the greatest threats to humanity — climate change — recognizing the leaders who are on the frontlines of eco-impact, and helping them to achieve our universal climate goals, is extremely necessary.
Ahead, we've listed the most climate-minded politicians in and outside of the U.S., who are each paving the way for our planet's future.
In 2019, then presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said, “There’s no ‘middle ground’ when it comes to climate policy,” which sums up his stance on environmental politics over the years quite well. Sanders created a national energy efficiency grant program in his first year in the Senate, and it passed in 2007. To date, the grants were the largest investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy at the community level in U.S. history.
Sanders also introduced one of the most comprehensive pieces of climate change legislation in the history of the United States Senate with the carbon tax-and-dividend bill and accompanying clean energy bill. While the bills were ultimately killed, they shifted the Democratic drive for climate action. Much of the reason we’ve come so far on climate change politics now is thanks to Sanders, a true friend to Mother Earth.Photo: Bauzen/GC Images.
As the former environment minister of Brazil, Marina Silva rose from being illiterate at 16 to having become Brazil's youngest senator. Under her leadership, deforestation of the Amazon reduced by nearly 75%. Additionally, millions of square miles of reserves have been given to traditional communities. In 1996, Silva won the Goldman Environmental Prize for South & Central America. Then in 2007, the United Nations Environment Program named her one of the Champions of the Earth.Photo: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images.
Congressional newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came onto the scene fires blazing, ready to change politics forever. With the new political realities of 2018 eventually came the Green New Deal – the most comprehensive policy proposal on environmental politics that our country has seen. The resolution ultimately calls for the U.S. to broadly mobilize to decarbonize the economy, among many other issues.
When Ocasio-Cortez proposed this along with other politicians like Ed Markey, the issue of climate change could not longer be ignored in D.C. Since, she’s continued to show she’s not messing around, and she has both hands on the wheel to save the planet.Photo: William B. Plowman/NBCUniversal via Getty Images.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has been one of the biggest advocates for working on climate on the world stage overall. Currently, she’s the only major global politician still in the game who helped strategize the original global warming agreement at Kyoto in 1997.
Germany is also the leading country in moving away from coal and oil, and has set high targets for emission cuts. Merkel has helped ensure that German energy efficiency is set to be improved by 3% a year for 20 years, with the solar market growing by 40% a year. "Unabated climate change will slash prosperity by between 5% and 25%. Rigorous climate protection will cost only 1% of this prosperity and makes economic sense,” Merkel has said. Photo: Steffen Kugler/Bundesregierung via Getty Images.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who most recently ran for president in 2019 but ultimately pulled out of the race, has served on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She’s also drafted plenty of environmental bills about everything ranging from cleaning up polluted sites to dealing with toxic chemicals. While she still has a ways to go on her environmental work, she’s done a hell of a lot more than many U.S. politicians. Gillibrand is one politician who isn’t messing around when it comes to Mother Earth. You can read her environmental policy statements here. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
The unofficial godfather of climate change (back when it was only referred to as global warming) Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, changed minds of the masses about the future of our planet. An Inconvenient Truth showed the real dangers we were up against in the early aughts, with Gore’s aim being alerting the public to an increasing "planetary emergency" due to global warming. In 2017, the sequel came out to enforce the same message. While he’s technically been out of politics for a while now, Gore has never stopped trying to get people to take global warming and environmental politics seriously, and let people know it’s in our hands to help out. Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures.
Kevin de León
California politician Kevin de León might not be changing environmental politics on a global levels, but he did author California’s 100% Clean Energy Law, which requires the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free resources by 2045. The bill is one of California’s most ambitious climate policies enacted to date. Even so, he’s continued working towards creating better, more safe communities for people of color and people in low-income brackets in California. This is one local politician who has a vision that continues to inspire others around the globe. Photo: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images.
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