Since 1970, Earth Day has brought together people around the world to reflect on the abundant natural beauty of our planet, and to consider how we can better serve as good stewards of the only home we have.

For all our vast differences, as humans we are united in our obligation to preserve our air, water, and wildlife. This simple fact should unite us in common reverence—and common cause.

At EERE, every day is Earth Day, because we are focused on accelerating the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of the innovative technologies that will help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035, and a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

This year’s Earth Day theme is Restore Our Earth, and it just happens to coincide with another of my favorite holidays – National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. What a perfect coincidental date to celebrate life and humanity.

Of course, this year will likely be a bit different for many of us who still find ourselves working virtually as we continue to do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19, even as millions of Americans are vaccinated each day. You may be able to relate to feeling like every day is also Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day.

For me, this year’s confluence of holidays is the perfect reminder of why our mission at EERE is so critical. It’s one thing to want to leave behind a better world for “the next generation;” it’s quite another to consider what I want the world to look like for my two daughters in the next few decades. I remember as a young girl thinking about what I’d be doing in the year 2000. For them, 2050 is practically just around the corner - when they will be in the prime of their lives, not some distant future.

That’s why I feel a deep urgency each day to deliver our mission, advancing investments and innovations in renewable power, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency. Our team is driven to ensure that these technological advancements are delivered to every citizen; our clean energy revolution has enormous potential to improve the lives of each American, creating millions of good-paying, middle-class jobs while ensuring more reliable, resilient and sustainable energy to power our society.

Each and every day, we’re laser-focused on five key priorities:

  1. Achieving a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035. Our focus is on supporting a range of emerging technologies that will allow us to reliably meet all of our electricity needs from clean, renewable sources.
  2. Decarbonizing the transportation sector—the largest source of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. We will do this across all modes of transportation: air, sea, rail, and road.
  3. Decarbonizing the industrial sector. Industrial processes contribute as much as 20% of our nation’s carbon emissions. We’re focused on leveraging renewable energy to help electrify industrial processes, using hydrogen to decarbonize industries like steel, and vastly improve energy efficiency.
  4. Reducing the carbon footprint of buildings across the nation. Buildings represent a tremendous opportunity as we address the growing urgency of the climate crisis. Our work focuses on decarbonizing the power grid, electrifying a significant share of building end uses like space and water heating, and significantly improving the efficiency of buildings and equipment like heating and lighting systems.
  5. And finally, enabling the world’s first net-zero agriculture sector, providing savings to farmers and rural communities across the country. We will support the modernization, security, and resilience of our interconnected food, water, and energy systems.

Each of these priorities focuses on a sector - not just a specific technology - given the cross-cutting nature of these challenges. That’s why we collaborate across our full range of technology offices to meet these objectives, guided by defined goals and metrics to gauge our progress along the way.

This mission is an all-hands-on-deck sprint. We need to move quickly given the gravity of the climate emergency; but we also have enormous opportunities ahead to catalyze clean energy jobs and opportunities that can benefit all Americans, including communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities—all of which have endured environmental injustices and stand to be hit the hardest by climate change.

Achieving these goals will be no small task. That’s why we continue to form partnerships across every sector. We’re working with a broad coalition of people from every walk of life—entrepreneurs, students, innovators, and citizens—to tackle this challenge and seize the opportunity of building a clean energy future. We all have a part to play.

2050 is just around the corner. On this Earth Day, let’s commit to doing all we can to secure our clean energy future for our children, for their children, and for generations to come.

Kelly Speakes-Backman
Biography for Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
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