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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Environmental Business Council of New England Boston, Massachusetts

10/03/1997
                Carol M. Browner, Administrator
             U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                               
                Remarks Prepared for Delivery
        Environmental Business Council of New England
                    Boston, Massachusetts
                       October 3, 1997
                               
         Thank you, Liz.  I am delighted to join you, Betty Diener and the rest of the
Environmental Business Council of New England.


     I want to commend the Council for the fabulous work you are doing on behalf of the
environmental products and services industry -- to educate your members, to help them capitalize
on the opportunities that are out there, and to support their growth and development.


     And I want to thank you for working with EPA on the critical task of encouraging the
development and marketing of new environmental technologies.


     This is something upon which we place the very highest priority.

      The business community does indeed have a critical role to play in crafting and
implementing the nation's agenda for protecting public health and the environment.


     The fact is that government cannot go it alone.   The way we protect the environment --
the way we ensure a safer, healthier world for our children and our grandchildren -- is by reaching
out to one another, finding common ground, working in partnership, aiming high and moving
forward shoulder-to-shoulder.


     I'm talking about government, businesses, community leaders, environmentalists --
everyone -- coming to the table to find ways to make our industries cleaner, our communities
safer and our country a better place for future generations.


     That's how we make progress toward a cleaner and safer environment.

     You and your industry hold the key to our continued progress.  We have many tough,
tough challenges ahead of us.


     Over the past quarter-century, this country has accomplished a great deal in environmental
and public health protection.  The air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we live on are
all cleaner than they once were.


     But, in some sense, what we've accomplished thus far has been the easy part of the task.
We still have major environmental and public health challenges ahead of us.  And what makes
them more difficult is the fact that, in many cases, they are not as obvious to the majority of
Americans.  But they very real, nonetheless.


     When rivers caught fire -- when brown clouds enveloped cities and buried toxic waste
caused people to become ill -- it was much easier to know what to do.  Americans demanded
action because they could see and experience what was happening to their environment.  The
sources of the pollution were much easier to identify.


     Today, the problems are very different.  Serious pollution threats are not as readily
apparent to large numbers of Americans.  Sources of pollution are more difficult to identify.  As
just one example, in the majority of the country's watersheds, the biggest source of water
pollution is not factories but runoff from a variety of urban and rural sources.


     All of us must be part of the solution to the difficult environmental challenges we still face.

     We must get down to the task of making tougher decisions -- and securing tougher
commitments -- and working evermore diligently to bring people together -- all for the purpose of
ensuring a safe and healthy environment for our children and their children to come.


     That is precisely why the Clinton/Gore Administration has been creating a new generation
of environmental and public health protection -- one that builds on the successes of the past and
meet the challenges of the next century -- one that brings real benefits to real people in real
communities.


     We're cleaning up more of the nation's hazardous waste dumps -- in fact, more in the last
four years than in the previous 12 years combined.  And we're planning to clean up 500 more
over the next four years.


     We have taken measures to improve our air quality -- setting stronger public health air
quality standards for the first time in two decades -- standards that will prevent thousands of
premature deaths each year, and improve health protections for people of all ages.


     We have enacted new laws to protect our drinking water and our food from dangerous
contaminants.


     Across this country, we are helping cities begin the process of cleaning up and
redeveloping their abandoned industrial properties -- the brownfields -- which at the same time
helps to save the pristine, open spaces outside our cities.


     We have expanded the public's "right-to-know" about toxic pollutants in their own
neighborhoods -- so they can take steps to protect themselves and their families, and so they can
take action to work with industries and reduce pollution in their communities.  Indeed, this has
been one of our most effective tools in fighting pollution.


     This new generation of environmental protection means something else, too.

     It means what the President has said, on many occasions, and what has proven to be true:
that environmental protection and economic progress do go hand-in-hand.  Over the past four-and-a-half years,  we have proved that you can have strong environmental protection and still
have strong economic growth and prosperity.  We do not have to choose between our health and
our jobs.  In fact, the two are inextricably linked.


     I think all of you know this better than anyone.

     You know that progress means building upon what has long made this country great --
our creativity, innovation, ingenuity.  We can reward those willing to do more than just an
adequate job -- to go further, to push the envelope, and to create new technologies and new ways
to prevent pollution.  And we must seek to build the kinds of partnerships -- between industries,
governments and communities -- partnerships that get the job done.


     The challenge of global warming will test this philosophy as never before.

     The science on this phenomenon is compelling.

     More than two-thousand of the world's foremost experts on the global environment --
internationally recognized scientists -- have come together to conduct a joint assessment on global
warming.  They are now telling us there is ample evidence that, for the first time in history,
pollution from human activities is changing the earth's climate.


     Modern industrial activity -- particularly the burning of fossil fuels -- namely coal and
petroleum products -- is filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases,"
which trap the Sun's heat in the atmosphere and cause the steady, gradual warming of the Earth's
surface temperatures.


     The average surface temperature is now a full degree Fahrenheit higher than it was at the
beginning of this century -- and it may rise another two to six degrees over the next century.


     If it does, scientists say, we can expect more frequent and more intense weather events,
such as heat waves, droughts and floods.  By the year 2050, heat-related deaths in the U.S. could
increase by up to 150 percent, with elderly people, infants and toddlers at greatest risk.  Hotter
weather will create deadlier smog episodes.  Agriculture will suffer.  In addition, tropical diseases
like malaria will expand their range, causing tens of millions more cases of the disease each year.  
And rising ocean levels will swamp many coastal areas.


     This will be our legacy to our children, if we do not look for some way to begin reducing
our emissions of greenhouse gases.


     As the President has said, this is a great challenge for our democracy.  We have the
evidence, we see the train coming, but most ordinary Americans, in their day-to-day lives, cannot
yet hear the whistle blowing.  Unless they live in a place where they have experienced a couple of
cataclysmic weather events within the span of a few short years, the consequences of global
warming are not yet readily apparent to them.


     But, again, the scientific evidence shows that these consequences are on the way.

     In December, the nations of the world will meet in Japan to seek a global agreement on
reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.


     President Clinton is committed to securing realistic and binding agreements that ensure
that all countries -- both industrial and developing -- participate in this process and do their part to
address the challenge of global warming.


      Although the U.S. -- with four percent of the world's population -- now produces more
than 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, our relative share is expected to decline over the
next couple of decades as nations like China and India increase their level of industrialization --
and with it their emissions of climate-changing pollutants.


     So we cannot go this alone.  Pollution does not know political boundaries.  And the
challenge of global warming brings a whole new perspective to the notion that the nations of the
world "are all in this together."


     On Monday, the President will host a conference on global warming at the White House --
as part of his effort to initiate a national dialogue on this challenge prior to the Kyoto conference.
We have made it possible for you to be a part of this conference by joining us at one of four
satellite downlink sites here in New England.  Our regional office representatives who are here
today have the specifics on where and when to attend these local conferences.  I would urge you
to get that information, choose one of the downlink sites and be there for what I believe will be a
worthwhile discussion of the issues surrounding global warming.  


    I'm sure I need not remind you that those who oppose action are on the march.  Some in
industry -- purporting to represent "the business community" -- are funding a massive
disinformation campaign attempting to portray the fight against global warming as a loser for
America.  They warn of dire consequences -- drastically higher fuel prices, economic catastrophe.
In the words of one campaign sponsor: "All pain and no gain."


     But you know how wrong they are.

     You know that addressing the challenge of global warming is not about ratcheting down
our economy.  It is not a question of who is going to sacrifice and how much.  Rather, it is about
investing in new technologies that make our industries more efficient, more profitable -- and
cleaner in the process. It is about using America's technological leadership -- the kind of
leadership that you are demonstrating every day -- to develop new and better ways to make
things, new and better ways to get where we want to go, new and better ways to work and to
play.


     Many of these technologies are already available or are in the pipeline.  I'm talking about
cars that get three times the gas mileage as today's vehicles -- without sacrificing safety,
performance, size or affordability.  They'll be on the market in just a few years from now.


     I'm talking about more efficient motor systems in factory equipment, advanced turbine
systems, computer workstations and household appliances that use less electricity -- and thus
reduce global warming emissions -- all through available technologies.


     Efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, and building materials are enabling
businesses and homeowners to reduce energy consumption -- and the burning of fossil fuels to
produce that energy -- by 30 percent.  


     According to the National Academy of Sciences, we can cut global warming pollution by
one-fifth -- right now, at no cost -- simply by using technologies that are already on the market.


     If the past is any indication, we know that your industry -- and other industries -- will
continue to develop new and even better technologies in the days ahead -- technologies that will
take us closer to the goal of eliminating global warming as a threat to future generations.
 
    And, lest anyone forget, those who are first in bringing these pollution-reducing
technologies to market are going to be very well-positioned in the global economy of the 21st
Century.


     This is about economic growth.

    That's why EPA is committed to working with you, in partnership, to preserve this
leadership, to enhance it, and particularly to spur the further development of innovative
technologies that will help us address the global warming challenge in the days ahead.    


     That's why we have the Environmental Technology Verification program, which is
designed to provide reliable data on the cost and performance of new technologies.  I am happy to
say that this Council is one of the grant recipients in this program.


     Here in New England, EPA's regional office has opened the Center for Environmental
Industry and Technology -- an effort to work closely with you to promote the industry and help
new, cost-effective technologies find their way to market.


     What's more, the regional office has instituted its own climate change action plan -- to
work with business and industry, as well as our government partners, in coming up with cost-effective, common sense approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


     We have recently created an Environmental Industry Sector Initiative -- whereby EPA will
be working closely with businesses like yours to identify and overcome barriers to innovation that
exist within the regulatory system.


     We have undertaken these initiatives -- and others like them -- because we believe that
your industry is going to play a critical role in addressing the environmental challenges of the
future -- challenges such as global warming.


     We believe there will be tremendous opportunities for you in the years ahead.

     If history is any guide, you will develop the technologies that will enable this nation can
make tremendous strides toward a future where prosperity and economic growth can co-exist
with a cleaner, healthier environment.


     As the great science writer, Arthur C. Clarke, once said:  "Any sufficiently advanced
technology is indistinguishable from magic."


     Well, now is the time to believe in magic -- and to believe in our own ingenuity.

     Global warming is for real.  We must squarely face its potential consequences.

     I believe we can build a shared commitment and a consensus -- among the American
people, among industries, among the nations of the world -- to develop the kinds of strategies and
market-based approaches that will enable us to solve this enormous problem while enabling the
economy to grow.


    We owe it to our children -- to all the children of the world -- and all of the generations to
come -- to give it our best effort.


     One hundred years from now, let the people of the world look back and say: "They saw
the challenge.  They answered the call.  And they did not flinch the face of their responsibility to
build a better world for us."


     Thank you.  And best of luck to you all.