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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
Under Secretary for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth, and
Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental Scientific Affairs Eileen Claussen
Press Remarks on Earth Day
Washington, D.C., April 22, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

Blue Bar

"Environmental Diplomacy:
The Environment and U.S. Foreign Policy"

12:31 P.M.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Today, I am pleased to present the State Department's first annual Report on the Environment and Foreign Policy. The report reflects the Department's decision, initially reached by Secretary Christopher, to integrate the environment and other global concerns into American foreign policy.
That decision was both a product of Secretary Christopher's vision and our collective experience. In recent years, in region after region, we have found that our diplomacy has been influenced by success or failure in managing the environment. This shouldn't surprise us. After all, competition for scarce resources is an ancient source of human conflict. In our day, it can still elevate tensions among countries or cause ruinous violence within them.
In addition, a lack of environmentally sound development can entrap whole nations within a cycle of deepening poverty, disease and suffering. There is nothing more destabilizing to a region than to have as a neighbor a society so depleted in resources that its people have lost not only faith, but hope.
By definition, the global environment deeply affects our own people. Our families will be healthier if the rate of emission of greenhouse gases is slowed. Our families will be safer if we have cut back on toxic chemicals used in the cultivation and production of food. Our coastal economies will be stronger if our bays and beaches are free of pollution and our oceans once again teem with fish. Our employment base will continue to expand if, through environmental good sense, other nations are able to create durable new markets for American services and goods. And our futures will be brighter if we are part of a world that is increasingly able to support life, rather than one that is losing that capacity day by day.
It is said that nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time. Current environmental and demographic trends are clear. We are headed for a world in which there will be far more of us, living closer together, consuming more and demanding more. Inevitably, we will face a competition between the "using up" that results from human presence, and the ability to adapt that sometimes results from human genius.
As policymakers, our job is to contribute to this adaptation process. And our challenge is to forge an international diplomatic response that reflects strong consensus goals and that will lead to positive and measurable results. The report released by the Department today reflects our effort to highlight and describe key parts of that challenge and to identify our environmental priorities for the coming twelve months.
For example, at the December conference on climate change in Kyoto, Japan, we will be pressing for clear, common and enforceable targets for greenhouse gas emissions--targets that encourage flexibility and innovation on the part of government and industry alike.
We seek an outcome in which the industrialized nations, who emit the largest amount of greenhouse gases today, will accept legally binding targets, and in which developing nations, who will soon become the largest emitters, acknowledge their obligations for the future. We will also be moving ahead with plans to negotiate a global agreement to ban or minimize the release of 12 of the most hazardous persistent organic pollutants on Earth.
These are substances that may have been banned long ago for domestic use in the United States, but which continue to show up in humans and more often in migratory populations of fish, birds and marine mammals. These pollutants such as DDT and PCBs are the toxic equivalents of the Energizer Bunny -- they keep on killing and poisoning for decades after they have entered our food supply.
In addition to these initiatives, the Department will proceed on a host of fronts, and with a host of partners both in and outside the government, to encourage global progress in maintaining biological diversity, managing forests, restoring valuable fish stocks, increasing the production of sustainable energy.
We will also continue to work on a regional basis to contribute to the solution of particular problems, such as the health of the Aral Sea, access to water in the Middle East, reversing desertification in East Africa and cleaning up toxic and waste sites in Central Europe and the Baltics.
Finally, we will be placing a steadily increased priority on environmental and related global issues in many of our key bilateral relationships. As our Common Agenda with Japan has demonstrated, cooperation leads to results. We can accomplish a great deal for our own future and for the world by working with nations such as Russia, Ukraine, China, South Africa and Mexico to identify environmental problems and coordinate strategies for dealing with them.
The report we release today is a reflection of a long term commitment to incorporate environmental goals into American foreign policy. As Secretary of State, I am determined that this commitment be active, worldwide and successful. And now I am pleased to yield the floor to two of the reasons why I am so confident that we will succeed--Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary Eileen Claussen.
Thank you all very much.
UNDERSECRETARY WIRTH: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, for your great leadership and support - enormously appreciated by all of us working in this very important area.
We have come a long, long way in the last four years in the quest of this administration to integrate the environment more carefully and thoroughly into our foreign policy. The distance that we have come is well-illustrated in this report. I think you all have a copy of this - just a superb piece of work.
This explains, as carefully as we can, in a kind of public fashion, how the environment and environmental concerns affect the American public; and how the environment and environmental concerns affect our strategic interests, both at home and abroad. It outlines how we are going about integrating these concerns with what we do day in and day out in our foreign policy around the globe.
The Secretary mentioned very briefly the Climate Treaty, which is a very good example of a fascinating issue which integrates economic concerns; very considerable political concerns, domestically; the most complicated diplomatic negotiation any of us has ever undertaken; and a very, very challenging scientific issue.
There are other issues as well, other examples of our environmental diplomacy. Just this last weekend, I hosted President Wasmosy of Paraguay on a four-day visit to the United States. The Paraguayans are leading an effort in Central South America to develop a major river project up through the core of South America. We had President Wasmosy come to the United States to learn from us, we hope, where we have done things right, in terms of water projects, and where we have made mistakes in terms of water projects. We had President Wasmosy in the Everglades, looking at the Kissimee River through central Florida, and then out on the Mississippi.
Not only do we gain, we hope, greater environmental integrity in the Western Hemisphere, but it also helps us to cement this very important relationship with Paraguay.
Another example is Haiti, where we are embarked upon an aggressive program after standing up -- the government in Haiti embarked upon an aggressive program there to work on population stabilization and environmental stabilization at the same time. I understand that Haiti, currently a population of 7 million people, can really only support a population of about 4 million people. It is absolutely imperative that we move aggressively on population stabilization there. As Haiti's population grows, as it must, it is in our strategic interest to understand the importance of population and its relationship to the environment as we look, particularly, at the refugee problems flowing in to South Florida.
And finally, the Department has been deeply engaged in beginning the Coral Reef Initiative, working with nations all around the world to focus on the importance of coral reefs -- the rain forests of the ocean -- as they relate to the economies of any number of countries around the world and the integrity of the land masses of those small islands and the very clear relationship between the coral, the economies, the arrival of tourists and our environmental awareness.
These are examples where it is very much in our interest to maintain the integrity of these environmental systems, as we look at South America, we look in our backyard in Haiti, we look at coral reefs all over the world having a very significant impact on us.
It's been a great pleasure to recruit to the Department and to have here Eileen Claussen, who had a very distinguished career. Many of you have met Eileen. She, before coming over here, was the head environmental officer at the National Security Council and before that, played a major role at EPA in the Clean Air Act and in the development of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone. Eileen has been the chief driver behind this report. Eileen, delighted to have your help. Thank you for being here.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Thank you, I would just like to make a few very brief points. You will see in the report that globally we have identified five issues that we think are really important for the coming year. They are climate change, toxic chemicals and pesticides, the loss of biological diversity, deforestation and ocean degradation. Each of these threats have the capacity to directly affect us here at home.
For example, while we cannot say with certainty that the flooding that is now occurring along the Red River signals the onset of climate change, it is entirely consistent with the predicted effects. We can expect that a continued warming of the Earth's atmosphere is likely to result in much more of such occurrences of extremely severe weather.
Regionally, we've also identified five problems -- fresh water, air quality, energy, urbanization and industrialization, and land use. These also have the potential to undermine political, economic and social stability in countries and regions that have real importance to United States interests.
China's energy demand, for example, is expected to more than double within 20 years. Continued reliance on coal as a primary energy source will greatly exacerbate local health problems, including a variety of respiratory illnesses. It will result in the spread of acid rain throughout the country, as well as on the Korean Peninsula and in Japan. It will have significant global impacts, as the burning of coal is a leading cause of climate change. We are working, as we say in the report, in a variety of ways -- globally, regionally and bilaterally - to address these and other problems.
Let me make just one last point. While we certainly must be active abroad, the United States has a major responsibility at home, as well. We are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases; one of the biggest importers of forest products; a major fishing nation; and important source of technology. So just as we will raise international environmental issues in foreign capitals, we must also raise them in state capitals. It is my hope that this report will help stimulate the domestic dialogue we need if we are to be effective. Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Do you have any questions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Questions? Yes.
QUESTION: I have one about the regional centers or hubs. Can you explain a little bit more how they will operate and how they will be staffed? Will this be an extension of the local embassy, or is it a special office?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: No, we have established hubs now in six different locations, and we have six more in the planning. They will be part of our embassies abroad. They will have regional agendas, rather than bilateral agendas. You'll see in, I think it's close to the back of the report, a listing of the six that we've already established in Bangkok, in Tashkent, in Addis Ababa. You'll see in the back of the report where the other ones are. I'm sorry, I've forgotten.
QUESTION: Do you have plans on doing an assessment of the potential economic impact of some of these climate change mitigation strategies?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What's the status of that? When do you anticipate having that completed?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Actually, just this Friday, we've scheduled a briefing up on the Hill to go through our baseline information and have a full discussion of the economic models that we are using. We hope, a little bit later, maybe within a month or two, we'll be able to share even more of our analysis, including all the different runs on the economic impacts of different levels of targets. But we're starting it this Friday.
QUESTION: How much more money have you asked for to implement these programs? Or are you dealing with the same dollars, just trying to do more?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Yeah, we're doing more with less.
QUESTION: So there's no additional money?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Actually, we've asked for a small reprogramming as part of our budget. But it's not significant enough, I think, to warrant a story.
QUESTION: (Inaudible).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: How about this side, for a change?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Sorry.
QUESTION: It's okay. I have just noticed that there is no mention in the report at all about organizations, institutes, think-tanks dealing with the environmental problems. Does this mean the State Department intends to be self-efficient, self-sufficient when it comes to environmental problems?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: No, actually, we do two kinds of things. These were all suggested in the environment speech that Secretary Christopher made at Stanford last Spring.
The first is that we do most of our work inter-agency, so we work with all of the other government departments on all of these issues. If we're going to have a policy on climate change, we have to involve the Department of Energy; we have to involve EPA; we have to involve the economic offices in the White House; we have to involve CEQ. So much of what we do is with the rest of the government, even though we are responsible for the policy and we lead negotiations.
We also have made a real effort over the past year to involve groups outside of the government. We've done a series of roundtables with NGOs, the business community and the academic community. We continue to rely on them for good ideas and ways of implementing what we decide is the right policy.
QUESTION: Could you talk in general about, basically the reaction of the international community to this kind of an approach to foreign policy - whether you feel like you're getting the support to do things worldwide? And in terms of China doubling its energy use in the next 20 years, what do you see as - I mean, is nuclear power going to be China's salvation, or are you looking at natural gas or what?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Let me answer the first one first. Virtually every country on the globe is involved in these issues in one way or another. So when we go, for example, to the climate negotiations, there are more than 160 countries that are parties to the convention; and then there are lots of others who come as observers. So most governments are active on these issues in varying degrees of sophistication and varying degrees of interest.
One difference that I think we have from many others is that it is the State Department that leads on these issues for the United States. It's not true in most other countries; it's the environment ministries that lead. We find that that's a little mixed for some difference in how we look at the problems. But there is engagement by all countries on all of these issues.
You asked specifically about China and their energy growth. I spent, actually, quite a lot of time in China last Fall talking about this. Clearly, from an environmental point of view, increased use of coal is probably the thing that is most harmful because it has local effects, regional effects and global effects. The Chinese are well aware of this and are actually starting to look at control technologies where they are going to be using coal.
But they're also starting to look for gas, and they're also increasing their use of nuclear. In addition to that, of course, they are moving on hydro in a couple of areas including the Three Gorges Project -- all as a way to have a broader energy mix and to try to deal with environmental issues. I can just say that all of these other ways of having energy - particularly if you don't go to renewables and solar - all have their own effects, not all of which are positive either.
I don't see China going all nuclear. But I do see them increasing nuclear, partly as a result of some of these environmental issues.
QUESTION: Do you envision a time when the United States will enforce sanctions against countries that are not abiding with treaties on the environment?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Actually, I think on environment, we have gone down a different road, which is a more cooperative road because we need all countries to solve these problems. So it's different than us sort of looking at the environmental record of a particular country.
We can't solve these chemical issues, or we can't solve deforestation around the world unless all countries participate. So I think our approach has been very different. But I will say this, one of the things that is most disturbing as we negotiate these treaties is the capability of countries who are involved in the negotiation to actually implement and what they commit to doing.
We believe, on the other hand, that the way to deal with that is not via sanctions - except perhaps in the most extreme cases - but with assistance and with help and because we find that in most cases these countries are very interested in trying to do what they say they're going to do. They're just not always quite capable enough. So I think the approach is really a different one.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why China (inaudible) brought under any international regime that would require a reduction in greenhouse gases?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Eventually, they will have to be.
QUESTION: But not - but this year?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: I mean, I think the Secretary said it quite clearly. We believe that industrialized countries should take the lead on this issue. We are the ones who have emitted most of the greenhouse gases that are up in the atmosphere. Yes, it is true that China and India, in particular, are really growing with respect to their gases and eventually will overtake us.
But I think the time for our action is now, and the time for their commitment to future action is also now. But actually taking those steps in a serious way, we think it should come after us.
QUESTION: Some of the major Western oil companies are investing in the Caspian Sea area, the Black Sea Area, and Siberia. What can be done to prevent a replication of the situation that occurred in Nigeria, for example, with the environmentalist Ken Saro-wiwa being killed as a result of protesting the damage?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: All I can say is that we are trying to work through our embassies on all of these issues because there is an increased emphasis and there is an increased willingness in our embassies to try to tackle these kinds of issues. Obviously, we hope to head some of those kinds of things off if we can.
QUESTION: Can you talk a bit about your oceans agenda for the next 12 months?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Yes. In oceans, we've just come through a period where we have negotiated a whole series of very important treaties and programs of action. I would say the agenda in the next 12 months is not a major set of new negotiations. It's to make sure that we and others implement the things that we have already agreed to do.
In one case, for example, we in the United States hosted a conference on land-based sources of marine pollution, and we have a program of action. We are working now through APEC to try to make sure that countries in the Pacific are going to start moving in a fairly aggressive way to implement that, and we are doing that in a very cooperative way through that process. A lot work is now underway. We're also working bilaterally with a lot of countries to help them go ahead and try to understand the consequences and try to understand the kinds of things that have to be done. So the agenda for oceans is really implementation.
QUESTION: You mentioned the flooding in North Dakota as a possible indication of global warming. Can you point to any other indications of global warming in this country?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: In this country? Maybe I should refer you to the multi-volume report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It's very hard to say that particular events are related to global warming. I mean, the science doesn't give us the ability to say that. The science does give us the ability to say that we expect changes in weather patterns as global warming starts to take effect. So that is why I mentioned the case of the Red River.
It's not because we can say that is caused by global warming. But I think we can say, with some confidence, that there will be more cases like that as the Earth starts to warm. I know that President said it when he went out to the flooding in the Pacific Northwest. I think we have said that when we talked about the flooding on the Ohio River. All of these are things that we expect to see if there is continued global warming.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question? You mentioned the problem posed by China and India. The problem is that if you try to build a dam, the environmentalists oppose it. You try to use coal, you get opposition. You try to build nuclear, you get opposition. So what exactly are we to do?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: That's a very good question. I started to say it over there. I mean, there is no easy answer on any of this because all forms of energy, save perhaps the use of renewables, causes some kind of negative effect on the environment.
In the end, I think we have to look more broadly, to look at a broad set of things. Each one might have its own, but I think pushing one in particular is probably not in our best interest. I mean, gas is a lot cleaner than coal. It's a lot safer, we think, than nuclear. But quite honestly, if we don't have good pipelines, the gas is emitted, too, and it's not so great either.
So in the end, I think you've got to do the best you can with what you have. Even more important than that, we've got to really push ahead with new technologies that are cleaner and better than the ones that we now have. Certainly if we are going to solve the global warming problem over the long term, we're going to need a whole new suite of technologies. We hope they will be a lot cleaner than all the ones we have.
QUESTION: I'd like to come back to the question of dollar resources, not natural resources. You say you are trying to do more with less - and that sounds bureaucratically correct - but this is a very ambitious program that you have outlined. You're opening regional offices. You've got more plans to - how are you going to pay for this? How are you going to staff these things? How are you going to go to conferences?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CLAUSSEN: Well, as I said, I mean, my bureau has a fair amount of resources. We have about 140 or a 150 people. I'm am trying to make sure that people are focused on the things that are most important so we use the resources we have wisely.
Of course, we are getting more resources to put in for these environmental hubs, which are being staffed by the Department as a whole and where we have been given resources to do that. Certainly, we are going to make sure we have environment officers in most of the key embassies around the world. Some of them now exist. We want to see more of them with a clearer set of agendas.
So I'm sorry it's just bureaucratically - but Tim wants to do a better one here.
UNDERSECRETARY WIRTH: Let me just perhaps close with a comment on this question and its relationship to resources. This goes to the very broad issue that the Secretary has been so focused on -- the necessity for us to absolutely put a halt to the free fall of American foreign policy and the budget and resources that we have seen in recent years.
This is but one of many examples of how in this post-Cold War world, we have a lot more complicated agenda. If we look at this issue, the environment; we look at the refugee agenda and how we have to deal with that broad set of issues; you look at institution building and democracy building; the narcotics and the crime agendas - all of which are going to demand significant investments, and all of which can be documented very clearly as investments today that are going to pay off tomorrow.
Now, how do we go about selling that? What is fascinating about this is the American public - if we go out and Nick Burns has organized a set of town meetings - we've had a very aggressive kind of outreach program to attempt to explain, as the Secretary has done, what we are doing and why. The response that that hits with the American public, the chord that you can feel is very tangible and very real. They understand the issue of population stabilization -- it means something to them. It's very tangible and real - can see the environmental issues; understand the flow of refugees and how that relates, perhaps, to their own history; can see the scourge of narcotics. All of these are elements in which, developing across the countries, are constituencies very deeply concerned about these issues and willing to make the kinds of statements to the Congress about the importance of these issues and the importance for American foreign policy overall.
Now, unless that continues to happen with the kind of strength that we see, we will not be able to arrest this decline in the budget. We will continue to be not only in trouble in the State Department, but more broadly in terms of all of the other things that we're trying to do. We think that this is precisely the way in which we are going to make some very significant in-roads in persuading and having the Congress understand how terribly important this broad set of agendas are, and how much it means to constituencies who are coming into their offices, knocking on the door, talking to them on the street.
Thank you all very much. We really appreciate your being here and your attention to this important initiative. Nick, thank you very much for having us.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Tim.

(The briefing concluded at 12:50 p.m.)

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