Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks at CERES Conference, As Prepared
Let me first and foremost thank the 200 members here who signed the letter supporting EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Your signatures, your voices, and your efforts to advance the conversation are incredibly valuable and appreciated.
It’s great to be here; it’s always nice to get out of DC—but this gathering is well worth it beyond that. As you know, there are a lot of folks weighing in on the climate discussion these days. And that’s a good thing, because there are a lot of things to consider.
But too often, folks out there give their personal analyses on what climate action means for your industries and your businesses. There might be a lot of cooks in the kitchen at any given time—but you guys are the ones who actually know how to cook—if you know what I mean.
You don’t just tell; you show shareholders, customers, elected officials, and everyone who has a stake in your services, your products, and the viability of your business, that climate action isn’t a boondoggle—it’s a boon to your bottom lines.
Your success is proof that climate action isn’t just a responsibility we should accept, it’s an opportunity we can seize to grow industries, create jobs, and build a modern, 21st century clean energy economy that our kids will be proud of.
I’ll be brief with my remarks, so there’s plenty of time for a discussion. First, I’ll give you a few more thoughts on climate; then, I’ll speak a little to our Clean Water Rule, another big priority at EPA; and last, I want to spend a minute on our sustainable purchasing work.
As you all know, we are on track to finalize our first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants this summer. There’s a lot going on across the government under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to curb carbon pollution and to prepare for impacts we can’t avoid. I’m proud to say that EPA’s rule is a key piece of it.
I could talk your ears off about the details—and I’m happy to get into them later—but for now let me just say this: what we’re doing is completely in line with ongoing trends. That’s what so great about the way we’ve built this rule: it doesn’t close any doors; just the opposite—it’s throwing them open faster.
I went to the UN climate summit last year with President Obama. I’ll tell you, it was so encouraging to see how bullish banks and businesses are on climate action and low-carbon strategies. You can think of our rule as a huge gust of wind in our clean energy sails—setting a long-term market signal that will give more certainty to your investments.
We have every interest in making sure your companies, your investments, and your innovations succeed—your success is essential to a low carbon future. Everyone in this room is part of the story of ongoing progress—case in point is CERES’ climate declaration, signed by more than 1,000 of the world’s biggest multinational companies, who call climate change “one of america’s greatest economic opportunities of this century.”
I really couldn’t have said it better myself…that’s why I pretty much say that exact same thing everywhere I go!
Let me make a few points on clean water. With historic drought punishing California, we have to be extra vigilant about protecting the water we have.
EPA focuses mainly on protecting water quality. But in the case of ever-increasing-water-scarcity, quality is quantity. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of our clean water rule, which we’re finalizing soon. It’ll protect the water bodies 1 in 3 Americans rely on for drinking water.
Clean water is essential to our economy, as well as our health and our way of life. That’s why we’ve done an incredible amount of outreach across the country to make sure the best advice is going into our final rule. We held more than 400 meetings across the country and received more than a million comments on our rule, and that input is shaping the final version. I want to thank the companies here that have been a part of that process.
Last, before we open it to discussion, I want to make a couple of points on sustainability—specifically on de-carbonizing the supply chain. Just a few weeks ago, I joined President Obama to announce a commitment to cut carbon pollution from the federal supply chain. For big companies and the government, our supply chains account for more than 75% of our carbon footprint. The federal government alone spends $500 billion each year on “upstream” products and services. So a small carbon reduction in the supply chain can go a really long way.
Along those lines, EPA is proud to have partnered with public and private organizations in launching the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council. The SPLC is a supply chain sustainability-rating system for companies, universities, government agencies, and pretty much any organization that buys things. It’s modeled after the super familiar, and super effective LEED green-building-certifications—including the universally recognizable “platinum, gold, or silver,” rating.
So we’re busy on climate. We’re busy on water. We’re busy on sustainability. And on every front, in everything we do—we’re doing it with economic considerations at the front of our minds. Let’s not forget, EPA acts to cut pollution and protect public health because of the economy, not despite it. We’ve been around for 45 years, and during that time, we’ve cut air pollution by about 70%, while U.S. GDP has tripled.
Let’s keep working together to keep that trend going. Thanks again for having me.