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Environmental Leadership on the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day

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April 22, 2000

In his weekly radio address today, President Clinton is commemorating the 30th anniversary of Earth Day by highlighting the tremendous progress America has made in improving our environment, while acknowledging that many challenges remain. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the nation's air, water and land are cleaner, and millions of acres of land have been protected. In the 21st century, climate change remains one of our greatest environmental challenges. To help meet the challenge of climate change, the President is unveiling two new executive orders. The first order improves fuel efficiency by requiring the Federal government to reduce fuel use in its vehicle fleets by 20 percent over the next five years. The second order will offer federal workers incentives to use public transportation, cutting fuel use and the pollution that contributes to climate change. Finally, the President will call on Congress to combat global warming by enacting his climate change budget package which increases investments in research and development of clean energy technology and offers tax incentives to consumers who buy energy efficient cars, homes, appliances and other clean energy products.

Increasing Scientific Consensus on Global Warming. A growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that the Earth is getting warmer and that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are contributing to that trend. Scientists now report that seven of the last 10 years were the warmest on record and that the 1990s were the warmest decade of the millennium. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climatic Data Center recently released a study showing that since the mid-1970s, the global temperature has risen at a rate of about 0.35 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. Left unchecked, this rate of warming will lead to potentially devastating consequences, including sea-level rise, the spread of disease, shifts in agricultural productivity, and damage to ecosystems.

Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have led efforts in the United States and abroad to protect future generations from the risk of climate change by:

  • Securing over $13 billion for the Global Change Research Program, building our understanding of the forces that influence the Earth's climate.
  • Establishing partnerships with major industries and retailers to develop and market more efficient homes, appliances, and automobiles. This has resulted in the development of over 3,000 energy efficient products through the EnergyStar partnership and hybrid automobiles that can achieve 80 miles per gallon without sacrificing safety, affordability or performance.
  • Advancing alternative energy sources such as wind, solar power and biomass through research, development and business and consumer tax credits.
  • Working with other nations to create cost-effective climate change solutions and leading 160 nations in reaching agreement on the Kyoto Protocol, a global framework of strong, realistic targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and flexible, market-based mechanisms to achieve them.
  • Leading the way by making the Federal government a model for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction. In June 1999 President Clinton ordered federal agencies to cut energy use in buildings by 35 percent, reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road and saving taxpayers over $750 million a year.

Making the Federal Fleet a Model of Fuel Efficiency. Today's Executive Order on federal transportation builds on the Clinton-Gore Administration's commitment to greater energy efficiency. It requires agencies to meet an aggressive target on fuel efficiency in federal vehicles -- a 20 percent reduction in 1999 levels of fuel use by 2005 -- using flexible strategies crafted to fit each agency's particular needs while minimizing costs. This will reduce the amount of fuel used by Federal vehicles by 45 million gallons each year. Reducing federal petroleum use and displacing petroleum with alternative fuels supports the Administration's agenda to:

  • Reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases as well as other air pollutants -- reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming by as much as 120,000 tons per year;
  • Promote markets for alternative fuels and fuel efficient vehicles;
  • Encourage new energy efficient and clean fuel technologies; and,
  • Enhance U.S. energy security and reduce price pressures for petroleum products.

Mass Transportation for Federal Workers. The President's Executive Order on mass transit will allow federal workers to spend up to $65 pre-tax dollars per month on public transit. In the Washington metropolitan area, all federal agencies will be required to help subsidize public transportation costs for their workers. And three agencies -- the Departments of Energy and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency -- will offer that benefit across the country. This measure will cut greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution and help reduce road congestion. The Department of Transportation estimates that 75,000-100,000 additional Federal employees in the National Capital Region will take advantage of the transit/vanpool benefits, reducing air pollution costs by $70 million-$95 million.

Growing Calls to Action. Against this backdrop of growing scientific consensus, U.S. corporations such as DuPont, IBM, and Johnson & Johnson, among many others, are stepping forward with real actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to meet the challenge of global warming. At the state and local level, over 500 mayors and local officials last fall called for greater action by Washington to meet the challenge of climate change.

Congress Stuck In Neutral. Despite the nation's call for greater action, Congress has consistently failed to move forward on climate change and has sought to erect roadblocks to sensible climate policies:

  • Over the past five years, Congress has underfunded energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by 22% below the requested levels;
  • Each of the past two years, Congress has failed to enact the President's proposed tax credits for energy-efficient homes, cars, and appliances;
  • Last year, Congress failed to appropriate any funds for the President's Clean Air Partnership Fund, which would help states and localities to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants;
  • Each of the past two years, Congress has attached anti-environmental "riders" to numerous appropriations bills that seek to put U.S. government climate policy in a straitjacket -- undercutting efforts to gain meaningful participation by developing countries in the fight against global warming and potentially strangling common-sense energy efficiency programs that save money for consumers and businesses.

Already this year, Congress has passed a budget resolution that fails to support the President's Climate Change Technology Initiative, which contains important funding to promote energy efficiency, develop clean energy sources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Failure to fully fund CCTI would be yet another setback in the nation's effort to improve energy security, increase energy efficiency and implement common sense, cost effective action to address climate change.

Environmental Accomplishments Detailed on the Web: For further information about the nation's progress in protecting public health and the environment -- including increased investments in clean energy technologies, improved air and water quality, accelerated toxic waste cleanups, dramatic reductions in toxic releases, and increased protections for millions of acres land across America -- visit the Clinton/Gore Administration's Earth Day report, "A Healthy Environment for the 21st Century" at www.whitehouse.gov.

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Environmental Leadership on the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day

Radio Address of the President to the Nation

Greening the Government Through Federal Fleet & Transportation Efficiency

Federal Workforce Transportation