Speeches - By EPA Administrator
Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the United Nations Environmental Programme Finance Initiative Global Roundtable, As Prepared10/19/2011
As prepared for delivery.
Thank you to UNEP for bringing this together and inviting me to be here. I’m glad to be back working with all of you after the steps we took to strengthen EPA’s connections with UNEP in February while I was visiting Nairobi. I’m also glad to be here with our partners in the private sector. Your presence here and your work with UNEP’s Finance Initiative are essential to facing the historic economic and environmental challenges ahead of us.
Now, everyone here has heard for years that there is an inevitable tension between profits and protecting people's health and the environment. But everyone in this room knows that’s a false perception. We don’t have to choose between economic returns and environmental protection. A stronger economy is a greener economy.
In fact, we have already identified ways in which we are not only similar, but that we are both better off by working together. The most basic similarity between the finance industry and environmentalists is that we both have made risk assessment central to our decision making. And today, as seen in many of your investment strategies, many of those risks overlap. Drought, desertification, biodiversity loss, flooding and other extreme weather phenomena are among the most likely, costly and potentially severe risks listed in a recent report. That list wasn’t produced by a government environmental agency or an eco-advocacy group. It came from the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report that surveyed businesses and investors.
Businesses and their financial backers have experienced the unfortunate down side of this and other environmental threats. In 2008 alone, UNEP estimated that environmental harm resulting from human activity caused $6.6 trillion in damages – much of that to assets held or insured by the financial services sector. Naturally, businesses and investors want to reduce these risks, and to do so, we need to work together. By working to motivate and expand investment in environmental technologies, cleaner production and green infrastructure we can improve your bottom line while protecting the environment and building healthier communities.
We know that in order for you to do business, you need clarity and predictability. So we are working to meet those needs by addressing greenhouse gases using the same tools within the Clean Air Act that we’ve used successfully for decades. We know that you need baseline investment in research and development, which is why we’re collecting accurate and timely greenhouse gas data. And as we have for more than a decade, we’re utilizing markets to advance energy efficiency and clean energy – through programs like Energy Star, the Green Power Partnership, the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, and Methane to Markets.
We’ve also dedicated more than $90 billion to job-creating clean energy projects. That included $29 billion for energy efficiency, $21 billion for renewable energy generation, $10 billion for grid modernization, and $6 billion for advanced vehicles and fuels under the Recovery Act. When supplemented by private capital, that money is supporting more than $150 billion in clean-energy projects. And beyond that we’re developing common-sense strategies that encourage investments in energy efficiency and updated technologies, strategies that are clear and flexible and cost-effective, and strategies that rely on input from the citizens, industry, affected entities and other stakeholders.
All of these start us on the road to a prosperous green economy. But we need to go further to meet the considerable challenges ahead of us today. So EPA has embarked on an effort to look beyond our traditional risk-based framework and fix our view on sustainability. We want to make sure we see the big picture, and aren’t addressing one environmental issue only to create another consequence in the process. And while we build on reactive efforts that minimize risk, we want to move toward more proactive efforts that focus on innovation, sustainability, and job creation.
I’m happy to see the global community has placed a priority on this sustainable approach and made it the focus of Rio 2012. I’m also glad that UNEP FI has engaged more than 200 financial institutions and a broad group of global finance sector stakeholders to promote awareness about the connections between sustainability and financial performance.
I was pleased to travel to Brazil this August to help launch a Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability. Our partnership is designed to serve as a global model for green economies in Brazil, the US, and around the world, by enabling positive market conditions and supporting investment in urban sustainability. Our work will eventually result in the 1st edition of a green economy “cookbook” with “recipes” and key financing “ingredients” and policy “menus” for short- and long-term investments in urban sustainability.
We’re also continuing our work with the financial community to help ensure the global availability of capital for environmental protection and improvement investments – and to ensure that efforts to meet our environmental challenges coincide with sustainable economic growth. We will continue to work alongside other federal agencies to assess potential environmental impacts of multilateral development projects. And we plan to further boost sustainable development and good environmental stewardship as we have through the International Finance Corporation’s Sustainability Framework. We look forward to having a similar role in the U.S. government’s engagement with the World Bank on its safeguards policies, which are set to be revised in a process beginning this year.
We know that our future will be built on innovations. And we know that those innovations need the support of robust investment, the ideas and energy of entrepreneurs, and a marketplace for commercialization of new, clean products. I’m glad to see so many of you here dedicated to this important effort, and stepping up in recognition of the shared interests we have for our economic and environmental future. I look forward to working with you. Thank you.