President Announces Clear Skies & Global Climate Change Initiatives
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Silver Spring, Maryland
February 14, 2002
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much for that warm welcome. It's an honor to join you all today to talk about our environment and about the prospect of dramatic progress to improve it.
Today, I'm announcing a new environmental approach that will clean our skies, bring greater health to our citizens and encourage environmentally responsible development in America and around the world.
Particularly, it's an honor to address this topic at NOAA, whose research is providing us with the answers to critical questions about our environment. And so I want to thank Connie for his hospitality and I want to thank you for yours, as well. Connie said he felt kind of like Sasha Cohen -- I thought for a minute he was going to ask me to talk to his mother on his cell phone.
I also want to tell you one of my favorite moments was to go down to Crawford and turn on my NOAA radio to get the weather. I don't know whether my guy is a computer or a person. But the forecast is always accurate, and I appreciate that. I also want to thank you for your hard work, on behalf of the American people.
I appreciate my friend, Don Evans's leadership. I've known him for a long time. You're working for a good fellow, if you're working at the Commerce Department, or at NOAA. And I want to thank Spencer Abraham and Christie Todd Whitman for their service to the country, as well. I've assembled a fabulous Cabinet, people who love their country and work hard. And these are three of some of the finest Cabinet officials I've got.
I want to thank Jim Connaughton, who is the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality. He's done a fabulous job of putting this policy together, a policy that I'm about to explain. But before I do, I also want to thank some members of Congress who have worked with us on this initiative. I want to thank Bob Smith and George Voinovich, two United States senators, for their leadership in pursuing multi-pollutant legislation; as well as Congressmen Billy Tauzin and Joe Barton. And I want to thank Senator Chuck Hagel and Larry Craig for their work on climate issues. These members of Congress have had an impact on the policies I am just about to announce.
America and the world share this common goal: we must foster economic growth in ways that protect our environment. We must encourage growth that will provide a better life for citizens, while protecting the land, the water, and the air that sustain life.
In pursuit of this goal, my government has set two priorities: we must clean our air, and we must address the issue of global climate change. We must also act in a serious and responsible way, given the scientific uncertainties. While these uncertainties remain, we can begin now to address the human factors that contribute to climate change. Wise action now is an insurance policy against future risks.
I have been working with my Cabinet to meet these challenges with forward and creative thinking. I said, if need be, let's challenge the status quo. But let's always remember, let's do what is in the interest of the American people.
Today, I'm confident that the environmental path that I announce will benefit the entire world. This new approach is based on this common-sense idea: that economic growth is key to environmental progress, because it is growth that provides the resources for investment in clean technologies.
This new approach will harness the power of markets, the creativity of entrepreneurs, and draw upon the best scientific research. And it will make possible a new partnership with the developing world to meet our common environmental and economic goals.
We will apply this approach first to the challenge of cleaning the air that Americans breathe. Today, I call for new Clean Skies legislation that sets tough new standards to dramatically reduce the three most significant forms of pollution from power plants, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.
We will cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent from current levels. We will cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 67 percent. And, for the first time ever, we will cap emissions of mercury, cutting them by 69 percent. These cuts will be completed over two measured phases, with one set of emission limits for 2010 and for the other for 2018.
This legislation will constitute the most significant step America has ever taken -- has ever taken -- to cut power plant emissions that contribute to urban smog, acid rain and numerous health problems for our citizens.
Clean Skies legislation will not only protect our environment, it will prolong the lives of thousands of Americans with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, as well as with those with heart disease. And it will reduce the risk to children exposed to mercury during a mother's pregnancy.
The Clean Skies legislation will reach our ambitious air quality goals through a market-based cap-and-trade approach that rewards innovation, reduces cost and guarantees results. Instead of the government telling utilities where and how to cut pollution, we will tell them when and how much to cut. We will give them a firm deadline and let them find the most innovative ways to meet it.
We will do this by requiring each facility to have a permit for each ton of pollution it emits. By making the permits tradeable, this system makes it financially worthwhile for companies to pollute less, giving them an incentive to make early and cost effective reductions.
This approach enjoys widespread support, with both Democrats and Republicans, because we know it works. You see, since 1995 we have used a cap-and-trade program for sulfur dioxide pollution. It has cut more air pollution, this system has reduced more air pollution in the last decade than all other programs under the 1990 Clean Air Act combined. And by even more than the law required. Compliance has been virtually 100 percent. It takes only a handful of employees to administer this program. And no one had to enter a courtroom to make sure the reductions happened.
Because the system gives businesses an incentive to create and install innovative technologies, these reductions have cost about 80 percent less than expected. It helps to keep energy prices affordable for our consumers. And we made this progress during a decade when our economy, and our demand for energy, was growing.
The Clean Skies legislation I propose is structured on this approach because it works. It will replace a confusing, ineffective maze of regulations for power plants that has created an endless cycle of litigation. Today, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on lawyers, rather than on environmental protection. The result is painfully slow, uncertain and expensive programs on clean air.
Instead, Clean Skies legislation will put less money into paying lawyers and regulators, and money directly into programs to reduce pollution, to meet our national goal. This approach, I'm absolutely confident, will bring better and faster results in cleaning up our air.
Now, global climate change presents a different set of challenges and requires a different strategy. The science is more complex, the answers are less certain, and the technology is less developed. So we need a flexible approach that can adjust to new information and new technology.
I reaffirm America's commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention and it's central goal, to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate. Our immediate goal is to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy.
My administration is committed to cutting our nation's greenhouse gas intensity -- how much we emit per unit of economic activity -- by 18 percent over the next 10 years. This will set America on a path to slow the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions and, as science justifies, to stop and then reverse the growth of emissions.
This is the common sense way to measure progress. Our nation must have economic growth -- growth to create opportunity; growth to create a higher quality of life for our citizens. Growth is also what pays for investments in clean technologies, increased conservation, and energy efficiency. Meeting our commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by the year 2012 will prevent over 500 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from going into the atmosphere over the course of the decade. And that is the equivalent of taking 70 million cars off the road.
To achieve this goal, our nation must move forward on many fronts, looking at every sector of our economy. We will challenge American businesses to further reduce emissions. Already, agreements with the semiconductor and aluminum industries and others have dramatically cut emissions of some of the most potent greenhouse gases. We will build on these successes with new agreements and greater reductions.
Our government will also move forward immediately to create world-class standards for measuring and registering emission reductions. And we will give transferable credits to companies that can show real emission reductions.
We will promote renewable energy production and clean coal technology, as well as nuclear power, which produces no greenhouse gas emissions. And we will work to safely improve fuel economy for our cars and our trucks.
Overall, my budget devotes $4.5 billion to addressing climate change -- more than any other nation's commitment in the entire world. This is an increase of more than $700 million over last year's budget. Our nation will continue to lead the world in basic climate and science research to address gaps in our knowledge that are important to decision makers.
When we make decisions, we want to make sure we do so on sound science; not what sounds good, but what is real. And the United States leads the world in providing that kind of research. We'll devote $588 million towards the research and development of energy conservation technologies. We must and we will conserve more in the United States. And we will spend $408 million toward research and development on renewables, on renewable energy.
This funding includes $150 million for an initiative that Spencer Abraham laid out the other day, $150 million for the Freedom Car Initiative, which will advance the prospect of breakthrough zero-emission fuel cell technologies.
My comprehensive energy plan, the first energy plan that any administration has put out in a long period of time, provides $4.6 billion over the next five years in clean energy tax incentives to encourage purchases of hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, to promote residential solar energy, and to reward investments in wind, solar and biomass energy production. And we will look for ways to increase the amount of carbon stored by America's farms and forests through a strong conservation title in the farm bill. I have asked Secretary Veneman to recommend new targeted incentives for landowners to increase carbon storage.
By doing all these things, by giving companies incentives to cut emissions, by diversifying our energy supply to include cleaner fuels, by increasing conservation, by increasing research and development and tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean technologies, and by increasing carbon storage, I am absolutely confident that America will reach the goal that I have set.
If, however, by 2012, our progress is not sufficient and sound science justifies further action, the United States will respond with additional measures that may include broad-based market programs as well as additional incentives and voluntary measures designed to accelerate technology development and deployment.
Addressing global climate change will require a sustained effort over many generations. My approach recognizes that economic growth is the solution, not the problem. Because a nation that grows its economy is a nation that can afford investments and new technologies.
The approach taken under the Kyoto protocol would have required the United States to make deep and immediate cuts in our economy to meet an arbitrary target. It would have cost our economy up to $400 billion and we would have lost 4.9 million jobs.
As President of the United States, charged with safeguarding the welfare of the American people and American workers, I will not commit our nation to an unsound international treaty that will throw millions of our citizens out of work. Yet, we recognize our international responsibilities. So in addition to acting here at home, the United States will actively help developing nations grow along a more efficient, more environmentally responsible path.
The hope of growth and opportunity and prosperity is universal. It's the dream and right of every society on our globe. The United States wants to foster economic growth in the developing world, including the world's poorest nations. We want to help them realize their potential, and bring the benefits of growth to their peoples, including better health, and better schools and a cleaner environment.
It would be unfair -- indeed, counterproductive -- to condemn developing nations to slow growth or no growth by insisting that they take on impractical and unrealistic greenhouse gas targets. Yet, developing nations such as China and India already account for a majority of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, and it would be irresponsible to absolve them from shouldering some of the shared obligations.
The greenhouse gas intensity approach I put forward today gives developing countries a yardstick for progress on climate change that recognizes their right to economic development. I look forward to discussing this new approach next week, when I go to China and Japan and South Korea. The United States will not interfere with the plans of any nation that chooses to ratify the Kyoto protocol. But I will intend to work with nations, especially the poor and developing nations, to show the world that there is a better approach, that we can build our future prosperity along a cleaner and better path.
My budget includes over $220 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development and a global environmental facility to help developing countries better measure, reduce emissions, and to help them invest in clean and renewable energy technologies. Many of these technologies, which we take for granted in our own country, are not being used in the developing world. We can help ensure that the benefits of these technologies are more broadly shared. Such efforts have helped bring solar energy to Bangladesh, hydroelectric energy to the Philippines, geothermal electricity to Kenya. These projects are bringing jobs and environmental benefits to these nations, and we will build on these successes.
The new budget also provides $40 million under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act to help countries redirect debt payments towards protecting tropical forests, forests that store millions of tons of carbon. And I've also ordered the Secretary of State to develop a new initiative to help developing countries stop illegal logging, a practice that destroys biodiversity and releases millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
And, finally, my government is following through on our commitment to provide $25 million for climate observation systems in developing countries that will help scientists understand the dynamics of climate change.
To clean the air, and to address climate change, we need to recognize that economic growth and environmental protection go hand in hand. Affluent societies are the ones that demand, and can therefore afford, the most environmental protection. Prosperity is what allows us to commit more and more resources to environmental protection. And in the coming decades, the world needs to develop and deploy billions of dollars of technologies that generate energy in cleaner ways. And we need strong economic growth to make that possible.
Americans are among the most creative people in our history. We have used radio waves to peer into the deepest reaches of space. We cracked life's genetic code. We have made our air and land and water significantly cleaner, even as we have built the world's strongest economy.
When I see what Americans have done, I know what we can do. We can tap the power of economic growth to further protect our environment for generations that follow. And that's what we're going to do.
Page Last Modified: August 7, 2008