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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

As Prepared for Administrator Johnson, Eco-Cities of the Mediterranean Forum 2008, Ishtar, Dead Sea, Jordan

10/20/2008
Thank you, Mr. Asfour (USAID Economic Growth Project), for your gracious introduction.

And I would like to thank Minister Irani for inviting me to participate in this forum.

As I drove this afternoon from Amman to the Dead Sea, I could not help but marvel at the remarkable beauty of this region - its arid landscapes and the stark beauty of the Dead Sea. The drive also opened my eyes to the environmental challenges metropolitan areas in this part of the world must address.

Today’s meeting centers on the opportunities that exist, in metropolitan areas across the Mediterranean region, to address challenges like water quality and water quantity.

And I think it’s only fitting that the theme is, “Together for a Better Future.”

In my capacity as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I have learned that when EPA works alone, environmental progress can be limited. However, when we work in collaboration with our partners, city officials, companies and citizens, our environmental successes can accelerate at a remarkable pace.

And because we recognize that our environmental interests do not stop at our borders, the U.S. is committed to working with our international neighbors, like Jordan, to develop innovative solutions to our shared challenges.

One shared challenge is that of air quality. As a scientist by training, I appreciate the fact that pollution, especially air pollution, knows no political or geographic borders.

And just as we live in a global economy, we also live in a global environment. This means as contributors to the world economy, the U.S. and Jordan are vital to the health of our world environment.

As you know, transportation is a main reason for air pollution in cities. Overcrowding of cities means the number of vehicles is increasing, contributing to traffic, congestion and inevitably, air pollution. Cleaner fuels and cleaner vehicles are essential for healthy cities.

Speaking of healthy cities, I’d like to congratulate Jordan on eliminating lead in gasoline earlier this year.

This is a tremendous achievement – every country in the world that has removed lead from gasoline has seen a decrease in lead in the air and a decrease in lead in children’s blood.

EPA is a founding partner in the UN-led Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, and is working with them on the global elimination of lead from gasoline. There are now only 14 countries in the world that still use lead in gasoline. And we are hopeful that we can achieve our global goal for lead phase-out in the next 2 years.

Eliminating lead in gasoline is a very important step. And to continue our environmental progress, it must lead the way for introducing diesel and gasoline with very low levels of sulfur. As much as lead poisons catalytic converters in vehicles, sulfur poisons the advanced technologies that can reduce particulates from vehicles, especially diesel vehicles. With lower sulfur fuel and emission control technologies, we can reduce particulate emissions by 90 percent.

And though some people worry that environmental achievements come at too high a cost, we in the U.S. have reached a different conclusion. Over the last 30 years, we have managed to cut our air emissions in half, even as our population and economy have grown substantially. And we’ve learned a few things in the process.

For instance, we’ve learned that increased economic growth does not dictate a decrease in environmental progress. As we are seeing in the U.S., environmental progress and economic growth can, in fact, go hand-in-hand.

Every dollar spent to improve air quality can yield an enormous return on the investment. In the U.S. we've seen benefits-to-cost-ratios of 40-to-1 for our acid rain program, 17-to-1 for our new transportation programs and 20-to-1 on our recent activities to reduce emissions from locomotives and marine engines. These numbers are proof that good environmental policy can also lead to positive economic results.

As we continue to advance our environmental successes in the U.S., we remain reliant on a handful of core principles – principles that I believe are also applicable in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East. I am hopeful that by sharing this information we can identify ways in which we can work “together for a better future.”

First, we use the best available science. At EPA, we’ve found that sound science is the basis of our environmental achievements and the genesis of our future successes. A science-based decision-making process is essential to ensuring our actions target the most critical air pollution challenges.

As part of a science-based approach, it is important to build the infrastructure necessary to accurately quantify emissions and monitor the impact of air pollution. As a result, we are better able to manage our air quality and ensure our programs are effective.

The second, and equally important, lesson we have learned is the importance of good environmental governance.

Enforcement is necessary to encourage companies to meet their environmental obligations. Enforcement deters those who might otherwise profit from violating the law, and levels the playing field with environmentally compliant companies.

Here in Jordan, EPA is partnering with the Environmental Rangers, Jordan’s new environmental police, to share information on the development of environmental enforcement systems and skills to investigate environmental crimes. Our partners also include the Jordanian Ministry of Environment, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, and the Judicial Institute of Jordan.

As we speak, a Jordanian delegation is visiting the U.S. to see first-hand our successful environmental enforcement and compliance system. We will follow this two-week tour with specialized training on inspections, criminal investigations, and adjudicating environmental cases, designed to develop sustainable environmental governance systems.

Having established a strong basis of good environmental governance, the third lesson we have learned is the value of collaboration with the regulated community on the full range of environmental programs. By participating in an open and honest dialogue with a broad group of stakeholders, consensus can be reached on even the toughest of issues.

Through common-sense collaborative programs like ENERGY STAR, EPA is reducing energy consumption along with our nation’s carbon dioxide footprint by offering consumers and businesses environmentally-friendly energy choices. In 2007 alone, with the help of Energy Star, Americans saved $16 billion on their energy bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 27 million vehicles.

Through our Climate Leaders Program, EPA works with industry to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Our 230 partner companies – who represent more than 11 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product – have committed to reduce their impact on the global environment by completing a company-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions, setting aggressive reduction goals and reporting annually on their progress.

EPA estimates that by achieving their greenhouse gas reduction goals, our Climate Leaders Partners will prevent the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of more than 9 million cars annually from entering the atmosphere.

We are also pleased with the success of our SmartWay Transport Partnership, which encourages industries to implement fuel-efficient strategies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through simple actions like reducing the amount of diesel they waste by idling.

The Partnership, whose membership ranges from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 to 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by the year 2012. SmartWay is an easy way for businesses to keep more money in their pockets while helping us all breathe a little easier.

In large part, EPA has found programs like ENERGY STAR, Climate Leaders and SmartWay to be so successful because they are voluntary. Offering incentives can be an effective tool for achieving environmental results. Through these programs, EPA encourages performance beyond regulatory standards while providing support in areas where national regulatory mandates do not exist, or where responsibilities have been delegated to the local level.

But advances in environmental innovation in the U.S. are not limited to our air programs.

We are also investing in solutions to protect and enhance our nation’s water resources. Clean and reliable sources of water and sanitary disposal are necessary for so much more than drinking – industry, manufacturing, transportation, electricity and fire-fighting.

The linked issues of water quality and water quantity have been long-standing challenges for the United States, particularly in the western part of our country. And recently we have seen water challenges expand into our historically wet southeastern region.

The good news is that we have had great success to date in our efforts to recycle water in the U.S. For example, in 2003, over 170 billion gallons of water were recycled in the state of California, with nearly half of that water used for agricultural irrigation. The state’s current goal is to increase the volume of recycled water to over 300 billion gallons by the year 2010.

And in the U.S. state of Florida, over 630 million gallons of recycled water per day is currently being reused, with half of that used for landscape irrigation in public access areas, like golf courses, parks and school grounds.

While the reuse of wastewater sources requires reliable technologies, technology alone will not guarantee the success of such water reuse efforts. We also need better information on a wide range of both chemical and microbial contaminants – which requires more sophisticated monitoring systems. And we must develop effective public education to gain and maintain public acceptance of reuse and conservation practices.

To encourage the efficient use of the United States’ water supply, EPA launched a program called WaterSense, in 2006. The program identifies products and practices that reduce water usage and maintain high environmental standards – all without compromising performance.

WaterSense provides families and businesses with simple ways to save money and water, while ensuring certified products perform at least 20 percent more efficiently than their counterparts.

The WaterSense label also encourages innovation in manufacturing. In the two years since its launch, WaterSense has become a symbol in the U.S. for water efficiency among utilities, plumbing manufacturers and consumers. The WaterSense label can now be found on more than 260 models of water-efficient faucets and accessories, and more than 200 varieties of high-efficiency toilets. And today, more than 1,000 utilities, manufacturers, irrigation professionals and retailers are helping promote WaterSense products.

When I think about these different environmental challenges the U.S. faces, I am struck by how many of them are related to growth and development. How we develop our cities and towns today will have an impact on the environment tomorrow.

Buildings alone can have a significant impact on the natural environment and the well being of communities. In the U.S., buildings account for 39 percent of the total energy use, 60 percent of the total non-industrial waste output, and 38 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

However, with some forethought and planning, you can reduce these impacts.

By adopting green building strategies, like using recycled materials in building construction or incorporating high-efficiency water and energy systems, we can make certain our buildings and communities are designed, built and operated in efficient, environmentally responsible ways.

When it comes to building green, I’m proud EPA is installing green building practices in our own buildings nationwide. EPA has eight new facilities that are full of energy and waste-saving technologies, reflecting our core mission: to protect human health and the environment.

Agency-wide, the results have been impressive. Since 2000, EPA has cut water use by 11 percent. Since 2003, we have cut energy use by 12 percent. And in 2006, we became the first federal agency in the U.S. to purchase renewable energy equivalent to 100 percent of our annual electricity needs at all our facilities.


Your governments can also be a role model to companies, communities and individuals in your own countries. By leading by example, your governments will help them appreciate the environmental and economic benefits of “going green.”

I’ve offered only a few highlights of U.S. efforts to promote sustainable development in our country. We are hopeful that enhanced international cooperation will increase the overall effectiveness of similar programs on a global scale.

As I mentioned previously, we continue to learn a great deal about innovative approaches to environmental protection from our international partners, and I hope that our hosts and colleagues here in Jordan can learn from us as well.

I am convinced that the learning and sharing between our nations will continue as we strive to meet our mutual goals of environmental and economic success. The businesses, governments and citizens of our nations have much to learn and gain from our cooperation, making us not only strong political and economic allies, but strong environmental allies as well.

Thank you again for the opportunity to talk with you this morning. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.