Remarks by Senior Advisor Mark Kasman, Office of International Affairs Asia-Pacific, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the Opening Ceremony of H

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Logo

June 21, 2013 Taipei, Taiwan

Thank you very much for the introduction. As the US Environmental Protection Agency’s lead official for the Asia-Pacific region based in Washington DC, I manage our cooperation with agencies across Asia.  I’m very happy to be here in Taiwan to participate in this important event to recognize and highlight the collaborative program between the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Protection Administration Taiwan.

Let me begin by conveying USEPA’s appreciation to the American Institute in Taiwan for working so hard to put together these displays to both memorialize the achievements of the first twenty years of environmental cooperation, and to highlight the opportunity to strengthen our partnership even more in the coming years.

Let me also take the opportunity to express our appreciation to Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen.  Under Minister Shen’s leadership, US EPA and EPA Taiwan have grown into close partners.  Through his vision, USEPA and EPA Taiwan have demonstrated how strong partnerships can motivate environmental action across the globe.

Bilateral to regional

Only a few years ago this was a bilateral program focused on technical exchanges exclusively between people of the United States and Taiwan.

In 2011, Minister Shen and then-USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, expanded this partnership, setting a new standard for how long-standing bilateral partnerships can address shared priorities and common global environmental challenges.

Together, we examined how we could leverage our work to benefit our partners around the Asia Pacific region and the world.  We decided to invite our global partners to work with us to share the knowledge and hands-on tools we have developed in addressing our environmental challenges.

Let me give a few examples:

EPA Taiwan established a Central Data Exchange, which is a central point for exchanging environmental information about air, water, and other environmental media.  Technical assistance from USEPA provided EPAT with the approach, some of the software tools and knowledge to implement that system.

Based on US EPA and EPAT’s experience with Central Data Exchange, Thailand’s Pollution Control Department took what they learned from EPA and EPAT through one of our regional groups to deploy their own Environmental Data Exchange.  Like EPA and EPAT, they are using this tool for industry to meet reporting requirements and to provide data to better measure progress, set targets, and adjust policy.

We also learned recently that Korea is exploring a site remediation law based on principals followed by the US and Taiwan during our biannual regional working group meetings on site remediation.

Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, and Thailand have all agreed to work with EPAT and EPA to strengthen regional capacity and approaches to monitoring mercury.  As you all know, mercury is a dangerous pollutant that affect vulnerable populations especially children and women of a child-bearing age.

In fact, Minister Shen will be launching this partnership when he visits the United States in just a few weeks.

During this visit to the US, he will also have the opportunity to hear from international participants who are applying Taiwan’s experience managing e-waste to their own situations.  Countries from the Asia-Pacific, Latin American-Caribbean, and African regions have benefited from learning about Taiwan’s system and have established a network to share information on an ongoing basis.

All environmental challenges are global and regional

Through our regional partnership, USEPA works with EPAT to address what we call global “meat and potato” issues: Clean air, water, soil, waste management, toxics reduction and sustainable communities.

Global environmental partnerships are needed to address global environmental challenges.

Some might ask why environmental agencies with domestic mandates, such as USEPA and EPAT, work with agencies so far away from home. Why is contaminated soil in Vietnam or Thailand relevant to EPA and EPAT?

Consider this: The rice we eat might come from Vietnam or Thailand.  Our work to address contaminated soil affect communities in those countries as well as in Taiwan and in the United States.

Mercury emitted from power plants and other sources in this region can wind up in the fish on your dinner tables in Taiwan and, my dinner table in the US.

More than 90% of the methylmercury (a more toxic form of mercury) exposure from fish consumption in the US comes from estuarine and marine fish, including fish harvested from the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Ocean supplies more than 60% of the global tuna harvest. 40% of people’s exposure to methylmercury in the US comes from tuna.

Since its inception, EPA has recognized that domestic action alone is not enough to fully address environmental concerns. Unless managed in a sustainable way, increasing global industrial activity can have potentially negative effects on human health and the environment. It is in the interest of the United States and its international partners to share environmental management practices and to achieve the mutual goal of protecting the global commons.

What has become more apparent every year is that all of our environmental challenges are faced globally.

Extreme weather events such as Typhoon Moaokot are occurring more frequently. We saw this recently in the US with Hurricane Sandy that effected New York and New Jersey. Both states are still working on the recovery, several months later.

There is much to be said of how there are so many lessons to be learned and shared bilaterally and regionally.  We at USEPA recently commemorated the agency’s fortieth year.  And we are thrilled that it’s followed so closely by the twenty-year anniversary of our partnership with Taiwan’s EPA.

It’s difficult to understate the scale of global environmental challenges, and as we take a step back and look at our successes, we must also recognize that there is still much work left to be done.

I’m pleased to report to you here today because of the work of USEPA and EPAT agencies have done across the region, and to recognize that we are all much stronger when we come together as partners.

So many countries

Since Minister Shen and EPA Administrator launched the regional program less than two years ago, agencies from Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, India, Colombia, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Ghana and others have joined the conversation.

Communities too

In addition to serving as a platform for so many agencies to partner, this program has also helped bring communities closer together.  As a result of our program, communities and schools are beginning to partner together. They are learning from each other, turning into environmental stewards where it counts the most- in our communities.

One of the panels unveiled here today highlights the work between EPA Taiwan and Sustainable New Jersey sustainable community certification program.  Through this collaboration students in New Jersey and Taiwan have worked together to reduce waste and energy use, do more recycling, and conduct cultural exchanges mostly through Skype and email.

We are looking forward to introducing new tools such as an online “Sustainability Dashboard”, which will facilitate even more exchanges and  contacts between communities in the US and Taiwan surrounding themes of sustainability.

Green jobs

In the coming years, we hope to expand our conversation from how we create environmental partnerships, to how we leverage these partnerships to drive results that benefit the people of the US, Taiwan, and our regional partners both in terms of human health and economic benefits.

President Obama has said we are often faced with a “false choice between growth and the environment.”  It is not an either/or choice between strengthening our environmental protection and driving economic growth.

This is a lesson that the US and Taiwan have both learned.  And we believe this should become an important part of our story in the coming years.  And it’s a story that we environmental agencies, should tell more often.

By working together we expect to have even more opportunities in the coming years to make sure we are leaving a healthier planet for our children, as well as a strong economy.

In a few weeks, when Minister Shen meets with the USEPA Administrator and other officials in Washington, DC, one of the central themes will be how we can use environmental policy to drive green growth and green economy.

One of the US green jobs examples that we will share with Minister Shen and with the international delegation is from California.

As in Taiwan, California’s e-waste recycling industry has grown as a result of a fee-based incentive program.  While Taiwan’s system uses fees from electronics producers to subsidize recycling, California uses fees from consumers.  The result of this subsidy system has been the development of a recycling industry that manages a full range of electronic devices, not just those which are regulated.  When we visited a recycling plant in Taoyuan county recently as part of our global electronic waste partnership program, the plant owner pointed to piles of garbage and asked what we saw.  His response surprised us. He said, “money, money, and more money”.

And e-waste management is only the start.  We see opportunities for our international partners to create green jobs in site remediation, air quality monitoring technologies, sustainable ports, consulting services, and many others.

The time is right as we celebrate the twenty year anniversary to think about how our platform for regional environmental collaboration can help create green economic opportunities and green jobs for communities in Taiwan , the US, and elsewhere.

Close with congratulations from Acting Administrator

Let me close by offering congratulations to Taiwan on behalf of Acting USEPA Administrator, Bob Perciscepe, and the entire team.

EPA Taiwan has so much to be proud of as it’s elevated to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

We at USEPA sincerely hope that today’s event highlights that the new Ministry should have a robust international program and a Department of International Cooperation to build upon the successes we are celebrating today.

The new department will help sustain and build upon the successes we are here celebrating today.

We have conveyed this to EPA Taiwan, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, TECRO, AIT and others.  We hope that strengthening our partnership even further will open even more doors, drive best practices globally, and lay the groundwork for healthy and sustainable communities for our children and generations to come.

Thank you.