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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Earth Day Kickoff Washington, D.C.

04/04/2000
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Earth Day Kickoff
Washington, D.C.
April 4, 2000


Good morning. Thirty years have passed since the first Earth Day, in 1970, when millions of people joined in one of the largest demonstrations of public opinion in the history of our country. That day, 20 million Americans -- from all walks of life -- participated in rallies, demonstrations, and teach-ins to show their support for the protection of our health and our environment.

Today, one of the highlights of Earth Day is taking stock of the great progress we have made. That progress is real. This Earth Day we celebrate the cleanest environment in a generation. But our job is not done. We still face tremendous environmental and public health challenges.

One of our biggest challenges is climate change -- an environmental challenge unlike any we’ve faced. Climate change will test our resolve as a people. It will test our national will.

Global warming is not some distant threat. It is real today. And if we don’t redouble our efforts to address it now, all our other work to this point will have been in vain.

More than 2,000 of the world’s experts on the global environment have told us that the effects of climate change can be predicted – rising sea levels, matched by the threats of ever intensifying storms, including more violent hurricanes.

Despite the magnitude of this challenge, there are naysayers who tell us the problem isn’t real or that the solutions are too costly.

This is nothing new. These are the same people who told us that protecting the environment and growing our economy were incompatible goals. They were wrong. And the American people knew they were wrong.

The American people believed then, as they do now, that the fight for clean air, for clean water, and for a healthy environment was a fight worth having, a fight we could win. And today, we enjoy the cleanest environment and the strongest economy in decades.

Now is the time for common-sense action on climate change: Action that gives us a real chance to address this issue successfully. It too is a fight worth having. It too is a fight we can win.

The Clinton-Gore Administration has charted a strong course for the future, calling for new investments to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, and working in partnership with industry, communities, and all levels of government.

The President’s 2001 Climate Change Budget calls for accelerated efforts to promote clean energy technologies; a stepped-up program to develop bioenergy and bio-based products; and new efforts like the Clean Air Partnership Fund to boost state and local efforts to reduce both greenhouse gases and ground-level air pollutants.

As part of his budget, the President has proposed spending $227 million for the third year of his Climate Change Technology Initiative. This initiative will promote voluntary measures that reduce energy use and bring down the energy bills of all Americans.

This Administration has already made great progress working hand-in-hand with industry to find solutions to difficult problems. Last December, President Clinton announced new clean air standards which will lead to cars and trucks that are up to 95 percent cleaner.

And, for the first time, these standards address not only the vehicles that people drive, but the fuels they use, by calling for a reduction of sulfur levels in gasoline by 90 percent.

Working together, we created cost-effective, common-sense standards that protect the public health, while protecting consumer choice and our thriving economy.

And, we are also addressing other sources of harmful pollution -- coal-fired power plants that contribute significantly to some of the most severe environmental problems facing the United States today. Our message to these plants which have wrongfully emitted millions of tons of harmful pollution is simple: We will not tolerate the degradation of the public’s health and the environment.

The legacy of Earth Day is the commitment the American people expect when this country faces threats like climate change. Not just a commitment from leaders, but from themselves; a personal commitment Americans can make every day.

An energy-efficiency program sponsored by EPA and the Department of Energy tells the tale. This is a common-sense program that removes barriers in the market place and spurs investments in more efficient and clean technologies.

Over the next decade alone, because of the investments made in the Energy Star Program, Americans will save more than 24 billion dollars and help reduce millions of tons of harmful pollutants.

If all consumers bought Energy Star products, it is estimated we would save over 100 billion dollars in energy bills over the next 15 years.

And the best thing about it -- we’re not just saving money, we’re reducing pollution. Protecting the environment. Acting responsibly.

Together, we have learned that an investment in energy-efficient technology is an investment in America’s tomorrow; that when we conserve energy, we energize the economy; that when we invest in the environment, we are creating jobs and building the America our children will inherit.

The result is nothing less than a new definition of progress and an important piece of the road map to solving the climate change challenge. It will not be solved by government. It won’t be solved by business. It will be solved when we capture the spirit of Earth Day every day and join to it the dedication of the American people to the future of their families.