Speeches By EPA Administrator
Administrator Johnson, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China04/11/2006
This is my first visit to China, and I am aware of how much our nations have to learn from and about each other, about our common environmental challenges, and about our shared humanity.
I understand it is somewhat of a tradition for U.S. officials to speak at Tsinghua University and I am pleased to add my name to the long list of your American guests. You, the students, are what make this university world-renowned, and now I understand why. I just finished having lunch with some of your students of ecology, I was pleased that much of our discussion focused on the opportunities our nations have in working together to address our shared environmental challenges.
I want to thank Professor Xue Lan for inviting me to speak at Tsinghua and to thank you, the students and future leaders of your great nation, for taking the time from your studies to meet me. At the end of my remarks, I look forward to hearing what is on your mind and to answering some of your questions.
China and America have a long history of collaboration. It was only a few months ago that President George W. Bush was here in China to strengthen our nations’ economic relations. And I know that the President is looking forward to hosting a visit from President Hu Jintao in just a few days from now in the United States. Just as our countries are working to become better economic neighbors, we are also committed to becoming better environmental neighbors. So when I received an invitation to visit China to discuss ways to improve our nations’ environmental relations, I was eager to accept it.
An important area of U.S.-China environmental cooperation involves hazardous waste. Yesterday, SEPA Minister Zhou Shengxian and I opened a new chapter in our ongoing environmental collaboration when we signed a new annex to the EPA-SEPA Memorandum of Understanding on the prevention, management, remediation, and emergency response to hazardous waste.
Our cooperation was prompted by China’s efforts to identify and properly dispose of its stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls – or PCBs – one of the chemicals governed by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The U.S. has developed comprehensive regulations and policies for managing the use, storage, treatment/destruction, and disposal of PCBs, and we are looking forward to sharing our experience and developed technology with our SEPA counterparts.
Joint work on managing dioxin and furans from cement kilns is an additional area of EPA-SEPA cooperation related to the Stockholm Convention. China is a world leader in cement production, creating over 40% of the world’s cement. However, cement production is the largest industrial source of China’s dioxin and furan emissions, which like mercury, are transported in the air over long distances, deposited in the environment, and then taken up in the food chain. Dioxin and furan – some of the most toxic pollutants known to man – are the unintentional byproducts of incomplete combustion in cement kilns. It is a U.S. goal to work with China to better reduce these emissions, while improving energy efficiency and reducing costs.
In another step to become better environmental neighbors, yesterday I visited the Tiantan Hospital in Beijing to announce a joint SEPA-EPA partnership to reduce the use of mercury-containing products and wastes at the hospital. Pollution knows no international boundaries, and this pilot project is an important first step for hospitals in China in reducing the amount of mercury released into our global environment. We hope to expand this model of collaboration to other hospitals, and increase public awareness of this critical environmental challenge.
As is the case with most environmental challenges, sound policy developed at the national level must be combined with effective implementation at the local level in order to deliver environmental results. In the United States, we have learned that when EPA acts alone, our environmental progress can be limited. However, when we work together with our partners, our environmental progress accelerates at a remarkable pace. In addition to effectively working with our partners in the federal government, under the direction of President Bush, EPA works closely with our partners in state and local governments. In the same way, SEPA must work closely with China’s provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions – as well as its inter-ministerial counterparts – to deliver their citizens cleaner air, water and land.
I was pleased to discuss with Minister Zhou, China’s plan to establish Regional Supervision Centers for SEPA to improve their enforcement of environmental policy more evenly and resolve environmental issues between and among provinces. Minister Zhou and I agreed to target our bilateral cooperation on strengthening these new regional supervision centers … and I was pleased that SEPA endorsed EPA’s proposal to create a sister regional program between EPA offices in San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia and three of SEPA’s new regional offices.
By working together, our nations have the opportunity to move together towards a cleaner, healthier, more productive future.
But unlike the lotus flower, which can bloom amidst the muck of a swamp, the availability of clean, abundant water resources is essential for the economic and environmental health of both the U.S. and China. From the productivity of our business, to the health of our citizens, both our nations must be committed to the sustainability of clean water supplies.
EPA and SEPA have expressed a strong interest in adapting some of the water policy tools that have been successful in the United States, such as calculating the total maximum daily load of pollutants allowed to enter a waterbody, and economic instruments that would address use and discharge equity issues. China’s authorities are also looking at ways to use wetlands to augment wastewater treatment and best management practices to reduce agricultural contamination of surface waters, especially from animal waste.
This year, the United States and China plan to collaborate on several areas of water management with a focus on the Huai River. This work will include studies and sharing the lessons we have learned in order to better understand the carrying capacity of water bodies. And to help us ensure sustainable access to safe drinking water, we will partner with other public and private groups, like the World Health Organization, to assist in developing Water Safety Plans for urban areas.
And as we collaborate to improve the quality of our water, the U.S.-China partnership is improving the health of our air – all of our air – by working together as better global neighbors. Later today, I will travel to Lijiang to visit one of two sites where EPA is working with China to reduce risks to human health from exposure to air pollution. According to the World Health Organization, each year the indoor smoke caused by cooking and heating from wood, coal and waste biomass causes the death of 1.6 million people worldwide, and more than 400,000 people here in China – mostly women, and children under the age of five.
The Chinese government has implemented – without question – the most successful stove program in the world – disseminating around 200 million fuel efficient stoves over the past few decades, and your industries are leading the way in developing and selling the next generation of affordable, more efficient and cleaner stoves. EPA is working to build on your leadership and progress by bringing together environmental managers from around the world to develop and disseminate solutions to reduce air pollution from home cooking and heating. In this effort, EPA is supporting two pilot projects in China to introduce alternative energy technologies in rural homes and schools, and reduce the air pollution from burning biomass and coal.
The availability of clean, reliable power is necessary for a strong, reliable economy. China and the U.S. are working together to ensure our energy supplies are met, in environmentally-conscious ways.
I would like to commend China for your ambitious commitments to control sulfur dioxide emissions from your power plants. When fully implemented, China will have the largest installed capacity of scrubbers to control sulfur emissions in the world. That is truly remarkable, and it will go a long way towards achieving your clean air and economic goals. Most recently, China has made commitments to address nitrogen oxides emissions from power plants around Beijing.
These actions embody one of the key lessons we have learned in the U.S. with regard to cutting power plant emission since we first passed the Clean Air Act in 1970. It is now clear to us that a multi-pollutant strategy that sets goals and timelines for reduction of SO2, NOx, and mercury emissions is both more efficient and more cost-effective than an approach that addresses each pollutant individually. The use of cost-effective tools like emissions trading not only increases compliance, but it allows for significantly greater pollution reductions – faster and for a lower overall cost. This is because a multi-pollutant approach provides our utilities with regulatory certainty, promotes innovation, and provides flexibility in defining how to achieve those emissions reductions.
I also want to stress that our air pollution policy is not simply a question of pollution controls. Energy efficiency programs that reduce the demand for electricity are a vital tool. For businesses, homeowners, and even entire nations, saving energy AND money just makes sense. Energy efficiency measures not only help cut emissions, but they are often the most cost-effective way to achieve reductions.
While the U.S. has made great strides in controlling and reducing the emissions from stationary sources and automobiles, we have learned that our gains in improving air quality in coastal urban areas are being offset by increasing emissions from vessels and port related activities.
And China knows this better than anyone. In 2004, your ports handled more cargo than any other country in the world. As freight volumes continue to rise, China is implementing its first law on port operations and making substantial investments in improvements to port infrastructure. With this greater economic activity comes the need for greater environmental responsibility. And no where is this more true than the port of Shanghai – which is quickly becoming the busiest port in the world. I will be visiting Shanghai later this week, and I look forward to meeting with their municipal port authorities to discuss the steps they are taking to measure and reduce their impact on the city and global air quality. The Port of Los Angeles is a leader in reducing their port’s diesel emissions and has been working with Shanghai Port authorities to share their experiences in addressing pollution from marine vessels and other port-related activities. These are exciting times for our ports. Through investment in clean diesel technologies, trade will continue to flourish, while the public health of citizens of both U.S. and Chinese port communities is protected from the negative impacts of air pollution.
In order to be good environmental neighbors, we must better understand the global nature of air quality issues through the use of best available scientific information. Sound science remains the basis of our achievements, and the genesis of our future environmental successes. EPA has been working closely with our Shanghai partners to assess air quality management capabilities and build capacity to model and develop effective, science-based air quality improvement strategies. Later this week, the U.S. will announce a new joint initiative with Shanghai to establish a state-of-the-art of air quality forecasting and public notification system modeled after the AIRNow system successfully used in over 300 cities in the United States. Through advancements in the air quality forecasting models and a better understanding of air quality episodes, this U.S.-China collaboration has the potential for improving air quality and public health in Shanghai over the next few years.
In the U.S., AIRNow has proven to be a very useful Web site tool to provide real-time information to the public and health professionals so they can understand and reduce their exposure to air pollution. Each day, millions of Americans depend on AIRNow’s air quality information to protect their health, and soon, through the fruits of our collaboration, Chinese citizens will be able to access similar air quality information for their cities right at their fingertips.
During my remarks, you have heard me mention EPA’s investment in partnerships. Both at home and abroad, EPA is building the collaborative partnerships that will maximize the impact of our resources, pool expertise, and involve the initiative and creativity of the private sector and the public. Without the active participation of our public and private partners, EPA could not fulfill its mission of delivering the American people the environmental results they expect and deserve. But these partnerships would not be possible without our commitment to make environmental information readily available to the public so that they can be active, informed participants. As a regulatory agency, the transparency of our decision-making and the public access to environmental information is codified in a number of U.S. statutes and we are better regulators for having these requirements.
In order to be successful in achieving the goals of your 11th Five Year Plan, I believe China must invest in and inform the partners, and the general public, in your own country. I have read several analyses of this document. This plan looks for real improvements in environmental quality, as soon as 2010, and calls for even greater and more marked improvements by 2020. It stresses much greater enforcement of pollution laws, strategies to eliminate the largest pollutants, reduction of greenhouse gases, proper waste disposal, and, very significantly, much greater investment in pollution controls.
But there’s one other aspect of this plan that I want to emphasize. Just as America has in the past, China has typically evaluated its national progress largely on the sole basis of economic growth. Your new five-year plan, however, takes a more expansive view … looking at the broad economy and the environment together, as part of the same system. By relying on performance indicators that look at both the economy and the environment, you will be laying the foundation for an even greater and more sustainable economy … and I applaud this broader view.
I have always been impressed by the history and beauty of China, and since being asked by President Bush to become Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, China has taken on an even greater importance in the global environment.
Just as we live in a global economy, we are also living in a global environment. This means that as major contributors to the global economy, the U.S. and China are vital to the health of our global environment.
The good news is 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.
By sharing our knowledge and working together, America and China will add to the purity of our global environment, while reaping the reward of increased economic growth.
I would like to highlight a particularly important point of cooperation between China and the United States. We are each a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. This multilateral public-private partnership is precisely the type of initiative that will help China achieve its goals under your new five-year plan – by enhancing energy security, promoting economic growth, and reducing greenhouse gasses. Likewise, President Bush has committed our nation to developing cleaner and more secure sources of energy, in order to power our economy and protect public health.
But the Asia-Pacific Partnership is not just an initiative of governments. The companies who are members of this Partnership account for a majority of the world's industrial production and power generation. The strength of our partners in industry provide the Asia-Pacific Partnership with a greater ability to design and implement programs that will achieve our collective goals related to energy security, economic growth, and the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Many of America’s domestic environmental protection programs are premised on the same foundation as the Asia Pacific Partnership. It is a notion that has underpinned environmental programs in the U.S. for over three decades: that economic growth and a clean environment go hand-in-hand.
Since EPA’s founding in 1970, our gross domestic product has tripled. And during this time, our energy use is up by nearly half, our population has grown by 40%, and vehicle traffic has almost tripled. Yet, with all of this increased activity, emissions of the six major air pollutants have been cut by more than half.
Think about that. We have effectively decoupled air pollution from economic growth. How has this happened? I believe there are two reasons. One relates to the economic burden that air pollution poses. Reducing air pollution has a direct and enormous effect not just on the air we breathe, but on our ability to work and be productive members of society.
The second broad reason for our success is that we’ve gotten better at it. We’ve become very smart at designing programs that maximize the public health and environmental benefits relative to program costs. Achieving clean air encourages, rather than hinders, economic growth.
But an equally interesting and important lesson in our story is how we designed the program that achieved this success. We have been very strategic in relying on a variety of tools, ranging from national fuel and vehicle standards, to technology-based pollution control standards for specific industries, to an entire planning process based on sound science that is focused on meeting air quality goals within a given jurisdiction.
But as we pushed harder and harder to meet our air quality goals, it became clear that many communities in America could not achieve clean air on their own. This forced our government to think more broadly and design regional solutions to regional problems. Once we opened that regional door, we began to see a whole new suite of solutions previously unavailable. Some, such as emission caps and trading, were government-driven and harnessed the efficiency of the marketplace. Other innovations, such as large-scale fuel switching to meet air quality goals, were responses by industry that we, in government, had not foreseen.
Today, I am proud to share that our Clean Air and Energy Strategy with SEPA is already helping China develop the tools and capacity to take advantage of these strategies. And emerging studies are now indicating that China has already moderated air emissions growth to a level below the rate of economic growth – an incredible start. But with the eyes of the world on your nation for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, further environmental progress can and must occur. So as your nation’s economic growth expands, so must your environmental progress.
Finally, let me turn my attention to one final point of collaboration with China. Over the past few years, EPA has begun to implement three rules to address the major sources of emissions from the transportation sector. These rules cover passenger cars, heavy-duty trucks, and non-road vehicles used for construction and other purposes. The positive public health and environmental results of these programs are huge – combined, these three measures will prevent over 22,000 premature deaths each year, reduce millions of tons of pollution a year, and prevent hundreds of thousands of respiratory illnesses. Expressed in monetary terms, these measures save the country over $170 billion per year, at a cost of roughly $11 billion.
What made these steps possible was a very specific strategy to treat the vehicle and the fuel as one system. By lowering the sulfur content of gasoline and diesel fuel, we were able to allow the use of modern, ultra-clean engines and emission control technologies. These technologies are so clean that a new heavy-duty freight truck meeting these standards will be cleaner than a natural-gas truck today.
And in order to address the emissions of those high-emitting trucks still in use, we have developed aggressive incentives to retrofit existing, high-polluting trucks and buses with equipment to greatly reduce their emissions. Again, the key is having diesel fuel with ultra-low levels of sulfur.
Last November EPA, working in close partnership with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau and SEPA, launched a project to retrofit twenty city buses right here in Beijing. We hope that this project will demonstrate the strategy and needed technologies to pursue a similar strategy throughout China. More immediately, I am very hopeful that this effort will yield meaningful air quality benefits in time for the 2008 Olympics here in Beijing.
By working in collaboration, we have the opportunity to show the world that America and China are moving together toward a cleaner, healthier, more productive future.
Once again, I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. Before I have to leave, I would be happy to answer any questions.