Remarks by the President at Environmental Signing Ceremony


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 22, 2000


Taj Khema
Agra, India

5:55 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Thank you very much, ForeignMinister Singh, Chief Minister Gupta, Mayor Maurya, District CommissionerChowdhury and, especially, Professor Mishra -- we admire you so much foryour efforts to save the Ganges; we admire you because for you it is amatter of science and faith.

I want to thank all of you for welcoming me and my daughter and mywife's mother, many members of the United States Congress, the Secretary ofState, the Secretary of Commerce, distinguished members of ouradministration and our ambassador here today. I want to thank all theenvironmental leaders from India who have come here today.

One month from this day we will celebrate across the world the 30thanniversary of Earth Day, a day set aside each year to honor our naturalenvironment and to reaffirm our responsibility to protect it. In a uniqueway, in India the Earth has been celebrated for more than 30 centuries.This, after all, is a nation named for a river, a place where the Earth andits waters are worshipped as divine.

With good reason, the people of India have spent centuries worryingfar less about what we might do to nature and far more about what naturecan do to us -- through floods, hurricanes, droughts and other calamities.But as the experience of the beautiful Taj Mahal proves, and as thestruggle to save the Ganges proves, we can no longer ignore man's impact onthe environment.

Pollution has managed to do what 350 years of wars, invasions andnatural disasters have failed to do. It has begun to mar the magnificentwalls of the Taj Mahal. Since 1982, protection of the monument has been amajor priority. And the fight has yielded significant advances. But,still, a constant effort is required to save the Taj Mahal from humanenvironmental degradation -- what some scientists call "marble cancer." Ican't help wondering that if a stone can get cancer, what kind of damagecan this pollution do to children.

It took the United States a long time to face up to these seriousenvironmental questions. Not so many years ago, one of our rivers was sopolluted it actually caught on fire. Bad air has made breathing verydifficult in many of our cities. Acid rain from our cars and our factoriesmade it unhealthy to eat the fish from many of our lakes and rivers. Overthe last generation we have worked very hard to restore our naturaltreasures and to find a way to grow our economy in a way that is in harmonywith the environment.

We know that India's remarkable growth has put that same kind ofpressure on your environment. And the cost of growth are rising everyyear, even along with your prosperity.

We also know that more and more the environmental problems of theUnited States or India or any other nation are not just national problems.They are global ones. More than any time in history, the environmentalchallenges we face go beyond national borders. And so must our solutions.We must work together to protect the environment. That is the importanceof the agreement Mr. Singh and Secretary Albright have signed today.

There are few areas where that cooperation is needed more than on theissues of climate change and clean energy. Here in Agra, you have takenimportant strides since the early 1980s to protect the Taj Mahal by usingcleaner energy and improving the quality of the air. In particular, Icommend the work of M.C. Mehta for working to establish a pollution-freezone around your national treasure. This is local action with globalconsequences.

The overwhelming consensus of the world scientific community is thatgreenhouse gases from human activity are raising the Earth's temperaturesin a rapid and unsustainable way. The six warmest years since the 15thcentury -- 200 years before the Taj Mahal was built -- the six warmestyears in all that time were all recorded in the 1990s.

Unless we change course, most scientists believe that the warming ofthe climate will bring us more storms and more droughts; that diseases likemalaria will be borne by mosquitos across more borders and at higher andhigher altitudes, threatening more and more lives; that crop patterns willbe severely disrupted, affecting food supplies; and the sea level willrise, so high that entire island nations will be threatened and coastalareas around the world will be flooded.

Now, of course if that hit, it is the developing nations that will behurt the most. And India, because of its geography, is one of the mostvulnerable.

Today, your government is taking an historic step to move us furtherin the right direction toward both clean energy and reducing climatechange. I applaud the leadership of Prime Minister Vajpayee for affirmingtoday that India will embrace specific national goals for energy efficiencyand renewable energy. In so doing, India is exercising leadership for theentire world. It will clean the air; it will reduce greenhouse gaspollution and global warming; and it will be good for your economy.

As the world's leading producer of greenhouse gases today, the UnitedStates and the rest of the developed world have a special responsibility.With this historic agreement, our two nations will work hand in hand tohelp turn India's environmental goals into a reality that also supportsyour economic growth. There are a number of ways in which the U.S. willsupport these efforts.

First, through the U.S. Agency for International Development -- whoseadministrator is here today -- we are committing $45 million to promotemore efficient energy production and use in India, and $50 million topromote clean energy throughout South Asia. Our Departments of Energy andEnvironmental Protection will resume their programs of technical assistanceto India to develop cleaner air and cleaner water. We will make available$200 million for clean energy projects through the Import-Export Bank. Andwe will take special steps to work with private enterprise to address thesechallenges.

I thank the United States Energy Association and the Confederation ofIndian Industry for agreeing to work as partners to meet these goals.

All told, we believe this historic agreement will help to reduce airpollution, to diminish health risks, to fight global warming, to protectand preserve the natural beauty of India. And while we work to cooperatebetween our nations, we must also remember our obligations to realize thepromise of the landmark Kyoto Protocol on climate change. For if we actwisely, this agreement can help both the developed and the developingnations to harness the power of the market to build a clean energy future.We must complete the work done in Kyoto so that the United States and othernations can ratify the protocol and it can enter into force.

Now, let me say that there are some people who don't believe anythingcan be done about global warming because they don't believe the economy cangrow unless energy is used in the same way it has been used for 100 yearsin the industrialized countries. They do not believe that India can growwealthy unless you put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by burningmore oil and coal, in the same way the United States and Europe and Japandid.

And in the Industrial Age that might have been true, but that is nolonger true. Many members of our delegation today rode over here inelectric buses that you use here to keep from promoting air pollution. Inno time at all we will have electric vehicles or vehicles that use fuelfrom farm products, or from simple grasses that will not pollute theatmosphere. In no time at all we will be using solar power wherever it isfeasible. We will be building buildings with materials that keep heat andcold out and are far more efficient.

We can, in short, do something today that could not be done 50 yearsago. We can promote more economic growth in India by using less energy andkeeping the environment cleaner. In other words, the economic conditionstoday are precisely the reverse of what they were 50 years ago.

The United States will never ask India or any other developing nationto give up its economic growth in order to reduce pollution. But we do askyou to give us a chance to work with your scientists to prove that you canachieve even greater economic growth and make the environment even cleaner.

I must say that we even have some people in the United States whobelieve the Kyoto Protocol is some sort of plot to wreck our economy; andwho, unfortunately, some of them have a good deal of influence -- theycontinue to deny that global warming is real. All I know is theoverwhelming consensus of scientists and the evident lessons of the weatherpatterns of the last few years all say the climate is warming at anunsustainable rate. We know it takes at least 50 years to turn it around.Why would we take a risk in not doing it when we know we have thetechnology today, with alternative energy sources and conservation, tochart a different future? I hope that in my country and yours andthroughout the world, we will have the sort of partnership to which we havecommitted ourselves on this day.

Finally, let me just say that we don't have to choose. We don't haveto choose between economic opportunity and environmental protection. Butwe do have to choose between a future of sustainable development for all ofour children -- with clean water and sanitary conditions and energyefficiency and clean air and a future in which we give it up simply becausewe refuse to take the necessary decisions to preserve them.

On this Earth Day this year and on this historic day today ofpartnership between our two nations, when we stand in the shadow of the TajMahal, we remember that it is a monument built in love; all the mostimportant monuments are built for love. The most important monument todaywe can give our children and our children's children is the preservation ofthe Earth that was given to us. We should give that monument in the spiritof love.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)  


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