For Immediate Release May 9, 1997
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(San Jose, Costa Rica)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Braulio Carrillo National Park
11:07 A.M. (L)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr.
President, for delivering on the rainforest. (Laughter.) You know, in
part of the United States, the children are raised with an old proverb
has come true today. The proverb is, you must be careful what you ask
life, because you might get it.
Well, Dr. Macaya, to Joaquin Viquez -- didn't that young
do a great job. You should be very proud of him; he was terrific.
(Applause.) Thank you.
To all of those who have spoken before and who have come
and let me thank the members of my Cabinet and administration who are
and also the members of the National Park Service. Hillary and I have
to make sure we're at at least one of our national parks every year, and
think it's fair to say that they are the most popular public servants in
United States, so it's nice to see them -- in the case of Mr. Findley --
someplace besides Yellowstone. I'm glad you're all here. Thank you all
much for what you do. (Applause.)
Most of what needs to be said has been said. I come here
emphasize the importance of the forest that surrounds us, the chain of
not only in Costa Rica and Central America but to all the world. We know
the rainforests of the world provide us with a good deal of our oxygen
enormous resources coming out of the plant and animal life they contain.
know that the forest helps us keep our climate stable to preserve our
to protect our river. It nurtures plants that provide food and clothing
furniture and medicine. And from the stunning quetzal bird to the
jaguar, we know that the marvelous animals must be preserved for all to see.
There is a new understanding today in the world between
bonds that connect human beings and their natural environment. We know
have to preserve them, and we know that in the end economic development
cannot occur unless the environment is preserved. That is the lesson of
Rio Earth Summit five years ago, the driving force behind the CONCAUSA
Alliance between the United States and Central America that President
discussed, and also the driving notion behind the way we want to
this hemisphere -- not just in trade and economics but also in education
health -- and finally in common cause to sustaining the treasures we see
around us here today.
Costa Rica is showing the way -- you heard President
say that now more than one-quarter of its land is being
protected. The unique natural resources are generating jobs and
income. Just before I came up here, Secretary Babbitt gave me
the figures on Costa Rica's tourism income because of the
commitment the people of this country have made to preserving and
protecting the natural environment. We now know we have to do
this not only in our hemisphere but around the world.
You know, the examples that the President cited I
thought were quite important. We are pursuing ways to reduce
greenhouse gases. There is some doubt about exactly what
increased greenhouse gas emissions are doing to the climate, but
no one doubts that they're changing the climate, and no one
doubts that the potential consequences can be very profound and
Almost three years ago, the Vice President of the
United States, Al Gore, and President Figueres signed an
agreement that will help United States companies greenhouse gas
emissions by investing in environmental projects in Costa Rica.
Today, there are more than a dozen of these joint
projects all across Central America -- promoting solar energy in
Honduras, geothermal energy in Nicaragua, forest management in
Belize. Now the carbon certificates created by the government of
Costa Rica and the United States companies will provide a new way
to finance these investments. Proceeds will go to clean power
plants, protecting or planting forests, launching other programs
that pay environmental dividends. This is a long way from the
philosophy which prevailed in this country, in our country, and
indeed throughout the developed and the developing world just a
few years ago.
From electric buses, which the President pointed
out, to wind-driven power plants, Costa Rica's ambitious plans
prove that we can have clean air and renewable energy in ways
that create jobs here and in our country. That bus, I believe,
was made in the Vice President's home state of Tennessee. And he
asked me to say he appreciates it. (Laughter.)
Third, let me say a special word of appreciation for
something the President mentioned, and that is the work that is
being done with the rain forest and with the space program by Dr.
Dr. Franklin Cheng Diaz, to deal with Chagas disease, which kills
20,000 people in Latin America every year. The idea of combining
what we know about space and what we find in the rain forest to
make people have better and healthier lives is another stunning
reminder that we destroy these resources at our peril.
Last, let me say, we're finding new ways to preserve
our natural heritage. Once, our National Park Service worked
with Costa Rica to help to set up your incredible network of
parks. Now the Costa Rican Park Service is returning the favor
by helping us to use your computer software in ways that will
enable our park rangers at Yellowstone -- which is the shining
diamond of our park system -- to catalog and preserve its natural
Soon after we complete this moment, Secretary
Babbitt and Minister Castro will sign an agreement strengthening
our cooperation for the next century. We're also working
together to help other countries take better care of their
wildlife, train professionals to manage fisheries in Argentina,
run national parks in Paraguay, teach conservation in Guatemala.
Now we have to work across national lines to protect the habitat
of the songbirds, the sea turtles, the other creatures that
migrate between our shores, and to stop the illegal and deadly
trade in endangered species.
Yesterday in San Jose, President Figueres, our
fellow leaders, and I pledged to make sustainable development a
cornerstone of our relations. It will be part of the 1998 Summit
of the Americas in Santiago and eventually the foundation of a
larger global effort.
We must ban leaded gasoline everywhere, not just in
Costa Rica, and control pesticides in our hemisphere, and reach a
global agreement to phase out the most dangerous toxic chemicals.
We have to protect our own forests and work with the United
Nations to develop a strategy for the sustainable management of
others around the world. And we must meet the challenge of
climate change -- regionally and beyond our hemisphere.
Together, we can make this a very historic year, Mr.
President. As you know, the United Nations is having a special
session next month on the environment. I am pleased to be
leading America's delegation to the U.N. I hope many other world
leaders will be there. Together, we need to reaffirm the spirit
of Rio and lay out the concrete steps we're going to take to move
ahead to make the preservation of the global environment and
sustainable development the policy of every nation on earth.
We are seeking to build a world where people live in
the 21st century in harmony, not at war with each other; when
they recognize that they have more in common than what divides
them; when they no longer seek to elevate themselves by demeaning
other people. That kind of world will only occur if we are also
generous, wise and good to our natural environment, and where we
do not expect today's growth to threaten tomorrow's survival.
That is my commitment; that is Costa Rica's commitment -- let us
make sure we realize it. Thank you and God bless you all.
Before the paper is too wet, we have to ask
Secretary Pena, Secretary Babbitt, and Minister Castro to come
sign our agreements on electric transport and parks on behalf of
our two nations. And we hope that the pens still work.
(Laughter and applause.)
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