Remarks by AIT Director Christopher Marut at the Opening of Historical Exhibit Celebrating 20 Years of U.S.-Taiwan Environmental Cooperation June 21,

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Logo

Minister Shen, Vice Minister Shih, USEPA Senior Advisor Kasman, Legislator Su, distinguished guests, good morning.

This is a very special day for us at the American Institute in Taiwan, and I am so grateful that you could all join us for this important event.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the signing of our bilateral cooperation agreement. In 1993 the American Institute in Taiwan and the Coordination Council for North American Affairs signed the Agreement for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection, establishing a platform for cooperation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration. It is upon this platform that these two agencies have built the history of outstanding achievements that you see on display in the hall next door.

The relationship formalized by our environmental cooperation agreement 20 years ago has become one of the centerpieces of the close relationship between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan. It is an aspect of the relationship that has produced tangible, measureable results. As you may know, I served at the American Institute in Taiwan in the late 1980s as the Science and Technology Officer. Just recently I had the chance to reminisce with my old friend Dr. Eugene Chien, who during my tenure on Taiwan became the first Environmental Minister.

The many challenges the newly-formed Environmental Protection Administration faced during those days included ever-present smog in Taipei, heavily polluted rivers, and the increasing problem of accumulating waste. Taiwan has made remarkable progress in cleaning up the environment during these last twenty years. Those of you here who played a role in that deserve credit for the contributions you have made toward a cleaner and greener Taiwan. In fact, that’s why we are here today — to celebrate your accomplishments, and to recognize the successes that we have achieved through our cooperation on environmental protection.

Taiwan and the United States have made much progress in cleaning up our respective environments over the last 25 years. However, we still are facing a spectrum of environmental challenges. Climate change, industrial pollution, transboundary mercury pollution, unsustainable agricultural practices, and the improper disposal of hazardous materials are some of the threats to human health and the environment that continue to require our urgent attention. While we all have benefited as consumers from the remarkable expansion of global trade and commerce, we also are aware more than ever how the environmental problems of one region affect the people living in another.

Soil contamination in Southeast Asia, for example, can pose a risk to the health of consumers in the United States who eat rice imported from that region. Discarded electronic waste can get shipped to garbage dumps in the developing world where it may contaminate local soil and water sources. As manufacturers employ energy-intensive production methods to keep up with consumer demand for products ranging from smartphones and computer tablets to automobiles, factories in many places, especially in emerging economies, are emitting significant amounts of carbon, greatly increasing the risk of storms, floods, droughts, and fires, in many places around the world.

We must work together to provide a healthy and safe environment for present and future generations. As economies around the world integrate sound environmental practices into the way they do business, we have witnessed the emergence of a new opportunity and necessity. It is not enough for authorities just to protect the environment of their own people. We see that they must also reach out to the rest of the world – to assist others with building their own environmental protection capacity, and to share best practices with experts and scientists around the world.

Taiwan is a perfect example of the leadership that I am talking about. The achievements of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration are not just limited to the confines of the island. We appreciate how our bilateral environmental cooperation has led to a partnership in regional and international capacity building. I deeply appreciate the role that the U.S. EPA played in this process, and I want to thank the U.S. EPA officials here today for their vision and foresight in contributing to this remarkable transformation.

Thanks to this collaboration and to Taiwan’s own initiative, the EPA here has now become a leader in environmental protection throughout the region, and increasingly around the world. For example, when experts on the proper handling of electronic waste from Taiwan discuss their experiences at international workshops, people sit up and pay attention. The demand for Taiwan’s increased engagement on international environmental protection will only get stronger. By sending experts to foreign countries, and by inviting foreign officials here, Taiwan EPA has enhanced international environmental protection in many areas, including site remediation, the collection and analysis of environmental data, mercury monitoring, decreasing port emissions, and the environmentally sound management of electronic waste, just to name a few. At the same time, this work generates tremendous international goodwill toward Taiwan.

I also would like to take this opportunity to recognize the efforts Taiwan makes to comply with international norms in spite of the limitations on its access to international organizations. I encourage Taiwan to continue in its impressive endeavors to meet international standards. At AIT, we have worked hard to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in organizations like the International Renewable Energy Agency. By continuing to demonstrate international leadership in environmental protection, Taiwan strengthens its case for meaningful participation in these organizations.

To the Taiwan EPA officials here today, I urge you to continue to expand your capacity to lead, and to take advantage of more opportunities that demonstrate Taiwan’s important contributions to global environmental protection. In that regard, we applaud Taiwan EPA’s promotion to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. We have a lot to celebrate today, and AIT looks forward to continuing our role of facilitating strengthened environmental cooperation between our peoples in the decades ahead.