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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, As Prepared

12/09/2009
As prepared for delivery.

Thank you Ambassador Fulton for that warm introduction. And thank you for your extraordinary work to make our contribution to this conference a successful one. Since I arrived here, I have had the chance to engage with our international partners in so many productive and inspiring meetings. I know that you and your staff have been an essential part to making all of this possible. So I want to make sure we recognize the Ambassador’s truly remarkable work. Thank you for all you’ve done – and will do – to strengthen our international work.

I'm very glad to be here in Copenhagen – this wonderful city in such a beautiful country. The Danish people are serving as incredible hosts to the world, and you must be so proud to show the world Denmark's beauty, hospitality, as well as its global leadership on climate change and clean energy innovation. I just learned that both the U.S. EPA and Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment are preparing to celebrate their 40th anniversaries – EPA in 2010 and the Ministry of the Environment in 2011. As we both approach this milestone and look back over the last 40 years, it is thrilling that we are working so closely together and looking ahead at the next 40 years and beyond.

It is an honor and a privilege to be with you and speak on behalf of the United States. As much cause as we have to celebrate what this gathering means for our nations and our future, we also meet at a time defined by shared challenges and sobering realities.

None of our nations have been immune to the global financial crisis and the economic downturn that followed. We are all here on behalf of people and families in our home countries, people who have struggled and continue to struggle with obstacles to immediate prosperity, and anxiety for their economic future.

These recent years have taught a difficult, but valuable, lesson. We now see just how connected we are as one planet. As President Obama said to a town hall meeting in Strasbourg, France, earlier this year, “Not more than a generation ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that the inability of somebody to pay for a house in Florida could contribute to the failure of the banking system in Iceland. Today what's difficult to imagine is that we did not act sooner to shape our future.” Fortunately, we did act soon enough to avert an even greater economic crisis. We have pulled back from the brink – and must now focus on our shared future and new foundations for global prosperity.

At the same time, we have reached the first point in history where the impact of everyday human activities is affecting the health of our entire planet. Our commerce and trade, our population growth, and our social behavior are having profound effects on our environment.

After decades of mounting evidence, climate change has now become a household issue. Parents across the United States and around the world are concerned for their children and grandchildren. Our governments are investing billions in mitigation and adaptation strategies. Our businesses are investing billions in efforts to increase efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions. And our security experts are preparing for new hotspots of instability and violent conflict.

If we do not act to reduce greenhouse gases, the planet we leave to the next generation will be a very different place than the one we know today. Just as the fates of our individual economies are connected in one global destiny, so is the fate of our environment. We know that the emissions from automobiles on American highways contribute to the same urgent environmental problem as peat bogs in Indonesia and deforested farmland in the Amazon – or booming industrial centers in China and India. In this global challenge, each of us bears responsibilities that extend well beyond our individual borders.

We owe it to ourselves, our fellow nations, and future generations to rise to this moment of challenge – and set a course towards sustainability, peace, prosperity and opportunity. For President Obama and the United States, that global effort starts at home. We have been hard at work on confronting climate change, through a wide range of initiatives – some you may have heard about, and others you may not have. We have been fighting to make up for lost time. In less than 11 months since taking office, we have done more to promote clean energy and prevent climate change than happened in the last 8 years.

As a start, we are working to revitalize and refashion the U.S. economy for the low-carbon, clean energy future. The Recovery Act Congress passed to pull our nation up and out of our economic downturn contains more than $80 billion for renewable energy projects. That represents the largest single investment in renewable energy in American history. We have sparked the development of solar and wind generation, the construction of efficient smart grid infrastructure to deliver clean energy, and the production and use of electric batteries for our automobiles.

Within the Administration’s first 100 days, a new regulatory framework was established to foster alternative energy projects that tap into the vast energy potential of the Outer Continental Shelf off our shores. The National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that development of wind energy alone on the OCS may provide an additional 1,900 gigawatts of clean energy to the U.S.

We’re also working to make the most of those new energy sources through widespread initiatives for energy efficiency. The Obama administration has established new energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential products like microwaves, kitchen ranges, dishwashers, light bulbs and other appliances that people use each and every day. Those are changes that will add up to considerable energy savings in the years ahead.

President Obama has also asked federal government to lead by example, through an Executive Order on Federal Sustainability. The Executive Order, among other initiatives, requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target; increase energy efficiency; and reduce fleet petroleum consumption.

Let me also take a moment to commend the extraordinary work of states and cities across the United States. In the last eight years, they have taken the leadership role in fighting climate change. All too often they had to go it alone – typically without federal partnership, and sometimes with aggressive federal opposition.

I served as the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection in the state of New Jersey, which joined together with nine other states to cut carbon emissions and expand clean energy through a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – one of several regional and state initiatives formed in recent years. Those were challenging times, but they sparked incredible creativity and leadership – and gave us much to build on as we take up this work at the federal level. Many of our state and local leaders are here in Copenhagen, and I encourage you to share your ideas with them. I know they are ready to do their part in our shared challenges.

In addition to building our clean energy economy, we have taken significant steps to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our most pervasive sources. For example, American automobiles. This September, I joined our Secretary of Transportation to announce new proposed standards will require an average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg in 2016 for cars and light trucks. That national standard will reduce oil consumption by an estimated 1.8 billion barrels, prevent greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 950 million metric tons – the equivalent of about 42 million cars – and at the same time, save consumers more than $3000 in fuel costs.

One week after unveiling the clean cars program, EPA announced that – for the first time ever – the United States will require our largest sources of greenhouse gases to report their greenhouse gas emissions. Starting next month, we will begin tracking approximately 85 percent of total US emissions – the critical first step towards comprehensive action on greenhouse reductions. We will know with accuracy how much greenhouse gas each large facility is emitting, and where energy efficiency investments and new technologies may be particularly effective at reducing greenhouse gases.

One week after finalizing our greenhouse gas registry, I signed a proposed rule to focus a requirement for best available greenhouse gas emissions controls on large facilities being constructed or modified. That will help control the greenhouse gas emissions from sectors that account for nearly 70 percent of our non-vehicle emissions. And the results won’t just be emissions cuts. We will also promote emerging innovations and accelerate the use of efficient, clean technologies – in the United States and around the world.

Finally, I’m proud to say that – hours before I stepped on the plane to come here, I announced EPA’s finalized endangerment finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to our health and welfare.

That is a decision that has been a long time coming. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down perhaps the most significant decision ever reached in environmental law. The Court ruled that the Clean Air Act, the landmark 1970 law aimed at protecting our air, is written to include greenhouse gas pollution. That verdict echoed what many scientists, policymakers, and concerned citizens have said for years: there are no more excuses for delay.

Regrettably, there was continued delay. But this administration will not ignore science or the law any longer, nor will we avoid the responsibility we owe to our children and grandchildren. By taking action and finalizing the endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution, we have been authorized and obligated to take reasonable efforts to reduce greenhouse pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

This long-overdue finding cements 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began seriously addressing the challenge of greenhouse gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform. It will ensure that we take meaningful, common-sense steps, and allow us to do what our Clean Air Act does best – reduce emissions for better health, drive technology innovation for a better economy, and protect the environment for a better future – all without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the better part of our economy.

And when we return home, we will work closely with our Congress to pass comprehensive clean energy reform through the U.S. Congress – reform that will promote clean energy investments and lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent below current levels by 2050. A strong program of reforms and incentives can help the market get to work – making clean energy the profitable kind of energy. Once legislation is passed, we’re betting on our entrepreneurs, innovators, and workers to accelerate the pace of clean energy development in the US and around the globe.

Now, we know that skeptics have and will continue to try and sow doubts about the science of climate change. These are the same tactics that have been used by defenders of the status quo for years. Those tactics only serve to delay and distract from the real work ahead, namely, growing our clean energy economy and finding innovative, cost-effective ways to reduce harmful GHGs. It’s time that we let the science speak for itself. We have relied on decades of sound, peer-reviewed, extensively evaluated scientific data. That data came from around the world and from our own U.S. scientists. What is makes clear beyond doubt is that climate change is real, and that now is the time to act.

We are proud to join the hundreds of nations, thousands of leading scientists, tens of thousands of innovators, entrepreneurs and private companies, millions of Americans and billions of global citizens who have seen the overwhelming evidence and called for action on climate change. At a moment when urgent economic and environmental issues are pressing on us from all sides, President Obama has positioned the United States to lead the way.

We are seeking robust engagement with all of our partners around the world. We are seeking to support sustainable economic opportunities in developed and developing nations. We are seeking a path forward that rewards our mutual interests and recognizes our individual responsibilities. And we are seeking to prevent the rapid approach of climate change that affects us not as separate nations, but as one Earth. I’m glad to be here with you, and look forward to our work together.