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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Meeting of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment Bangkok, Thailand

01/14/2002
Thank you for that introduction.

Let me first begin by thanking all of you for welcoming me to Thailand. I cannot think of a better place to begin my first trip to Asia as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. I bring with me the best wishes of all Americans – especially those of President Bush and the rest of my colleagues in the Cabinet and throughout our government.

This visit is not only important to me personally, but it is critically important to all of us at the Environmental Protection Agency. Since President Bush took office nearly a year ago, we have been emphasizing the importance of partnerships to achieving our goals for the environment. I am pleased that the partnership between EPA and Thailand, which dates back more than fifteen years, is such an excellent example of what President Bush has spoken about. Ours a deep and rich relationship with significant impacts in both of our countries.

There are a number of active organizations that help make this successful partnership possible, and I would like to take a moment to recognize their contributions now. This relationship is not simply between the United States and Thailand, or EPA and MOSTE. It includes participants from the Department of Industrial Works, the Industrial Estates Authority of Thailand, the Thai Administrative Court, the Court of Justice, several important non-governmental organizations that deal with the environment, and with municipalities across Thailand. They all share a common vision for a cleaner future for Thailand, and perhaps more important, they are backing that up with the necessary actions to get there.

The same is true of partners from the United States, and we are especially thankful for the continued support of the U.S.-Asia Environmental Partnership. I am so appreciative of their commitment to environmental protection in Thailand.

The attitude of these partners is indicative of the nature of our partnership in general. We are focused on results. My goal as administrator of the EPA is to leave the environment cleaner than when I arrived. It is a simple goal, but one that requires dedication and hard work to achieve. It also requires looking for solutions that directly impact the quality of the environment. Rather than creating more process, we are trying to develop solutions that lead us to actual progress. This is true of our work at home in the United States and as partners in a global effort to reduce our impact on the planet.

As you all know, environmental challenges do not stop at political boundaries. All countries have a responsibility to take care of not only the problems they face at home, but also those whose impacts are worldwide. That is why I am proud to be working alongside all of you to help solve not only the serious environmental challenges you are facing here in Thailand but also those which extend beyond your borders and into the global community, as well as those we face in the United States.

Fundamental to our ability to help each other reach our goals is the memorandum of understanding between MOSTE and EPA. It reflects the importance of getting results, but doing so in a manner that suits each of our countries. The MOU is definitely not one of those “champagne agreements” – where champagne is served at the signing and the agreement is never seen again. Instead, this is a working relationship that requires both sides to roll-up their sleeves and get things done. We must plan close cooperation in ways that ensure success and target resources to the areas where they can be most effective.

Judging by the results you have been able to achieve here in Thailand, it is clear that this approach works. We are working together to find Thai solutions to Thai problems. The 22 programs in which EPA collaborates with MOSTE and other organizations cover issues ranging from air quality to emergency response. We are looking for ways to encourage public involvement in both decision making as well as implementation of solutions and we are strengthening the role of the judiciary in resolving environmental cases.

Of course, this is not only an opportunity to celebrate the relationship we have had in the past, but to reaffirm our commitment to the future. In order to continue making progress, we must challenge ourselves to achieve more, to expand our partnership, and to reach out to every community in Thailand.

One of the best tools we have in America is the sense of stewardship that exists in our citizens. We must find new ways to tap into that potential here in Thailand by engaging the public and welcoming their participation. As the former governor of the State of New Jersey, I am also aware that it is often local governments that are best suited to finding solutions to their specific environmental problems. That is why I am excited about your efforts to decentralize environmental protection in Thailand. I understand that it brings with it a number of challenges, but once they have built the capacity to manage their own issues, the rewards will be great.

Among the rewards that accompany environmental protection is economic growth. That’s right. Environmental and economic goals are not only compatible; they are inseparable. Environmental protection can create jobs, spur innovation, create a market for technology, and increase the quality of life of workers across the country. Programs like Energy Star in the United States are showing every day how environmental protection and economic growth can be achieved hand in hand. I know that the same can be true here in Thailand.

I am pleased to say that EPA is contributing one of our greatest resources – our people. In the year that I have been at EPA, I have developed a deep appreciation for the expertise and dedication of the professionals in our Agency and I am happy to share them with you. In most cases, you are getting the best that we have to offer because they are helping with issues similar to those we are facing in the Unites States. For instance, the same people who have been working with Thailand on developing emergency preparedness have been part of EPA’s team responding to the emergencies in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The same is true, of course, in reverse. So many dedicated individuals in Thailand are working hard to protect the environment – some of them are in this room today – and they have garnered the respect and appreciation of their counterparts in America. One thing can be said of this group – they do not shy away from the challenges they face.

They understand, as well all do, that Thailand faces serious environmental challenges. They are similar to those we have faced – and in some cases are still facing – in America. They are difficult, but by no means impossible tasks to accomplish. To do so, we must commit to a certain vision for the future and develop a plan to get there. The path may very well be different than the one we took in America, but the vision is the same. Clean air so that we all can breathe easy. Clean water to drink, to fish, and to swim in. Protected land on which to farm, and raise animals, and watch our children grow. You will find a Thai way of achieving these goals, and we will support you as partners to help you get there.

Thank you very much for having me and I look forward to working with all of you in the future.