Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks at National Taiwan University, As Prepared04/14/2014
|Thank you for the introduction, Dr. Yang. Thank you to the students, faculty, and staff of National Taiwan University. It’s an honor to be at one of the world’s great academic institutions. You’re shaping the next generation of environmental leaders—here in Taiwan and around the world. Let me thank Director Marut of the American Institute in Taiwan for its support of our ongoing U.S. EPA and EPA Taiwan collaboration. |
We recently marked the 35th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, which has served as the cornerstone of the relationship between the United States and Taiwan since its signing on April 10, 1979. The TRA has endured for more than three decades, and our strong relations with the people on Taiwan have only deepened during that time. We remain committed to our long-standing “One China” policy based on the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act.
I want to also acknowledge the Environmental Protection Administration Taiwan, Deputy Minister Yeh, and the local Environmental Protection Bureau directors here today. So many environmental challenges are local by nature, and you are the first line of defense.
I want to personally recognize, Minister Wei, for all his leadership. And, of course, President Ma who understands the importance of protecting the environment. Over the past two decades, Taiwan has steered away from environmental hardship, toward a healthier quality of life. I’m confident that President Ma and Minister Wei will carry that commitment forward .
Earlier today I reviewed the incredible milestones our two sides have shared over the last 20 years. Just think back to before EPA Taiwan existed – if you’re too young to remember, ask your parents what the air was like in Taipei back then, or the water quality in the Tamsui River.
Today, Taipei is renowned as one of Asia’s most livable cities. And from the families all over Taiwan—to the students here in this room—you are among the most environmentally responsible people in the world.
But we all know that it’s not enough to fight pollution locally. Pollution is blind to borders. In an increasingly interconnected world—our shared challenge is clear. It demands a unified response. And EPA Taiwan is not only a willing partner—but an emerging leader, as one of the first agencies in this region to tackle pollution in the face of rapid industrial growth.
Since the signing of a cooperative agreement in 1993—we’ve exchanged expertise on air and water quality, chemical safety, soil contamination, e-waste recycling, and more. I encourage you to visit the wonderful exhibit in the lobby outside—to see the remarkable work we’ve done together to confront environmental problems.
Today, Taiwan is earning recognition as a worldwide environmental leader. For example, Taiwan’s success in reducing electronic-waste has been a model for e-waste initiatives in Central America and Africa.
I came to Taiwan to support Taiwan’s new International Environmental Partnership, which recognizes past progress and the important future contributions Taiwan can make around the world. The progress we’ve made together has made peoples’ lives better on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. When we work together—we can succeed together.
But today, many environmental and health challenges have persisted and become more complex. These challenges call for continued cooperation. And no threat requires more commitment and cooperation than the threat of global climate change.
Devastating weather events like super storm Sandy back in the Northeast U.S. where I call hom -- and Typhoon Haiyan in your region -- are becoming more frequent and powerful. These events are a threat to our safety and our economies.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of the threats to food security and worsening water scarcity in the region. From temperature changes and more disease-carrying insects—to diminished crop yields and increased storms and floods—we are all vulnerable to the unfolding risks of a changing climate.
The impacts of climate change will be different around the world. But as we’ve seen with historic storms, wildfires, and drought in the U.S.—no one is immune. We all face climate change together. We must fight it together.
Just last year, speaking at Georgetown University to an audience like this one, President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan that offers a road map for U.S. leadership and action. His plan outlines commonsense steps to cut carbon pollution, push clean energy innovation, and prepare for the climate impacts we already face. The United States is firmly committed to joining with Taiwan and economies around the world in taking action to address climate change. Hundreds of U.S. communities and businesses are engaged.
Now under President Obama’s direction, my cabinet colleagues and I have joined together to lead the way. We still have challenges ahead of us in areas like site remediation, e-waste, mercury, air and water in the U.S., Taiwan, and beyond. Collectively, we have the experience and expertise to leverage our partnership by supporting environmental progress throughout this part of the world through education, technical assistance, and technology.
Just last year, a team of U.S. EPA experts came to Taipei to integrate Taiwan into our expanding “air now” air quality monitoring system - real scientific data helping to keep people safe and inform our efforts to reduce pollution in our air. U.S. EPA will continue to partner with EPA Taiwan to form a regional coalition of environmental agencies right here in Asia to share what we know, and the technologies, programs, and practices that we have developed and implemented.
We know poor air and water quality impacts the livability and sustainability of our communities. For twenty years, EPA Taiwan and U.S. EPA have been understanding the science, gathering environmental data, and transforming information into implementable and innovative solutions. It all starts with education, which is why this university and all of you are so important. Knowledge will empower you and us to address regional challenges and turn them into economic opportunities.
Pollution doesn’t sop at borders- so neither can education. That’s why the United States and Taiwan are establishing a global environmental education partnership. As part of this effort, experts from around the world will be in Taipei this week to exchange experiences and best practices. They will build awareness of environmental issues and turn concerned advocates into active problem solvers.
Earlier today, I was reminded of the power of education. Before arriving on campus, I visited Jian- an Elementary School, right here in Taipei. I was there to launch a partnership among our youngest leaders. I watched American children laugh and solve problems with their peers from Taipei, as they virtually joined us via videolink.
This partnership captures the essence of our broader cooperation. Environmental education not only helps our local communities become more livable and sustainable, it reminds us of the interconnectedness of our global community. These little kids from the Jian-an School and Ben Franklin School in New Jersey are big leaders. Working together, they set up their own green councils and are running air and water conservation operations. In fact, they’ve found a way to turn waste into soap—and they’re selling it in the community.
By putting words into actions—these young leaders aren’t just educating themselves, they’re educating their communities and inspiring all of us. These elementary school students are the next wave of environmental stewards -- and will follow closely in your footsteps, building upon the environmental progress you’ve made over the past two decades. No matter what age we are, we can all learn from their example.
I continue to be inspired and amazed by the progress that has been made in Taiwan over the past 20 years. Just think of what we can achieve together over the next twenty years.