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Speeches - By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Regional Air Quality Meeting in Beijing, China, As Prepared

10/11/2010
As prepared for delivery.

Thank you for having me here at the 6th International Regional Air Quality Management Conference. I am honored to speak today. China has made remarkable efforts to protect the environment and create a more sustainable economic future in the past decade, including important gains for cleaner air.

While more cars go on the road and more people flock to your growing cities, you’ve set and strengthened emission goals. You’ve issued guidance to reduce regional air pollution in key cities and regions – including here in Beijing, as well as Shanghai and Guangzhou, where I’ll be visiting next. And I commend your goal of a 10 percent national reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions, which we know are harmful to people’s health and the environment. China has taken the amazing step of shutting down more than 10,000 inefficient, dirty power and industrial plants. That, along with championing the use of renewable energy and setting a 20 percent energy-efficiency improvement goal, is central to a clean energy future. And you’ve revised the Air Pollution Control Law to incorporate advanced approaches to air quality management – including U.S. approaches and technologies that can be adapted to China’s circumstances.

Much of this progress is due in large part to your long history of ingenuity and innovation. It also has to do with strong leadership. Let me acknowledge the role leaders like Minister Zhou have played in setting China on a cleaner, healthier path and showing the world the enormous potential of this nation to solve major environmental problems.

I am glad to be here representing a partner in those efforts. For over 10 years, the US EPA and the MEP have collaborated on projects to cut pollution in the air you breathe. I’m proud to share that yesterday we renewed our commitment to collaboration, and formally extended the 30-year partnership our two nations have forged on environmental issues.

This has been a productive partnership. Throughout the years we’ve created better modeling techniques to understand and improve air quality. We’ve built market-based emissions trading programs. And we’ve reduced emissions from cars and trucks by focusing on advanced controls and low-sulfur fuels. Through these improvements, our shared understanding of regional air quality management has grown tremendously – and with it, so has our understanding of the economic costs of air pollution and the benefits of improving energy efficiency. As we move into the next phase of our partnership, China is weaving new insights into national and regional policies and plans. Some of the most notable clean air results were at the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo. In the US, we’re also bringing new insights and approaches to the table, continuously updating our science on the health and environmental effects of air pollution, and putting in place innovative strategies to protect the American people.

While we are focused on local and regional air pollution in our own countries, the things we achieve have important global implications. Scientists from China, the US and Europe have been cooperating in recent years to better understand how air pollution moves across our hemisphere. I want to commend Chinese scientists for contributing to this global bank of knowledge. Along with American and European scientists, their work has revealed some important facts. We’ve learned that air pollution in one country or continent can affect the air in another. And we’ve learned that mercury, once emitted by our industries, can travel around the globe before it falls to earth. I am pleased that EPA and MEP are leaders in the UN Environmental Program negotiations on a globally binding treaty to reduce mercury pollution. We were proud to come to the table with China last year to move that process forward.

Because everyone is affected by pollution, no matter where you live or what country you’re from, we’ve found that integrating our ways of controlling pollution can be a more cost-effective and efficient path to success than dealing with our challenges alone. China and the U.S. are already doing this as we tackle fuel emissions. In the US we’ve employed ultra-low sulfur fuel to enable advanced engines and control technologies for cars and trucks. China’s move to use 50 parts per million sulfur fuel in the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong is also improving fuel efficiency and dramatically reducing harmful air pollution.

We know that climate change and air quality are closely linked – with many of the sources of air pollution also being sources of greenhouse gases. As a result, integrating air quality goals with addressing climate change can be very beneficial. In addition, having sound and robust environmental information systems can also have broad benefits addressing local and global pollution. Strategies to reduce our demand for energy and employ clean, low, or no-carbon technologies can benefit air quality and our climate at the same time. As one example, in the US, the State of New York is combining air quality measures with improvements in energy efficiency, allowing them to reduce traditional pollutants as well as greenhouse gases. This is a place where we see opportunities, and are looking forward to collaborating with China to develop integrated, multi-pollutant approaches to achieve cleaner air, energy efficiency, and greenhouse benefits.

The U.S. has also found that to successfully protect our health and environment – in addition to working collaboratively with our international partners – we must also work with our own citizens. Building a society of public stewards who understand the importance of the environment in their daily lives – and what they can do to help – is an essential foundation to achieving our shared goals. These public stewards make sure commitments are kept. They actively participate in hearings and review processes. But to get the best possible input, we must make our information open and accessible. One way we’ve done this in the U.S. is through EPA’s popular and widely respected AIRNow program. AIRNow provides easy-to-understand information and forecasts air quality in “real-time” to the public. We are pleased that China has joined with EPA to be a pioneer in applying this advanced public air quality notification system internationally, as part of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. AIRNow fits right in with the Expo’s theme of a “Better city – Better life” by communicating current and forecasted air quality conditions to decision makers, citizens, and visitors. It educates the public about air pollution and its effects on health. And it empowers the public to participate in efforts to improve air quality. China has the opportunity to expand access to air quality information reporting to other areas and to use this tool to foster clean air collaborations among cities and regions.

Despite today’s global economic and environmental challenges, it is always important to pause and acknowledge what’s already been achieved. Looking back can help guide our future path. This year, our nation is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act. This is a law that has saved lives, reduced the incidence and cost of health problems in our country, and promoted innovation all across our economy. We’re proud to share that experience to help build strong partnerships and clean air efforts here in China. The country can build on what we have already learned, and employ new technologies and approaches to the benefit of improved air quality. We can learn together new methods to clean up the air we breathe. China and the U.S. are two great and powerful nations with enormous challenges before us. Our technical leadership and cooperation can build a better future for everyone. The goal of clean air for every American and every Chinese citizen is within reach.

Thank you very much.