Thank you so much. I am absolutely delighted to be back in Helsinki and to have some time to visit about the issues that we are working on together, the challenges we are facing together, and I’m grateful to the Ambassador for his leadership. I personally want to thank Bruce and Cody for their enthusiastic expression of American interests and American values and their outreach to Fins everywhere. Because it’s not just about government-to-government, it is about people-to-people, and I’m extremely impressed by what they have done. And Bruce, this innovation building behind us is a perfect example of economic statecraft, of partnership, of innovation, and I’m excited about what you’re going to be able to accomplish there.
I want to thank the ministers for being here. Of course, I have had the chance to work with Alex before when he served in a different capacity. And I’ve heard that really terrible southern accent before, but the good spirit with which it is delivered has never failed to bring a smile to my face. And it has been very important to follow through on a lot of the good work that sustains itself between our two countries regardless of what government, what party, what individuals hold positions.
And I am so pleased to meet you, Minister. I have not had the chance to work with you before now, but I’m very grateful, because I know that you have been a good friend to the Embassy community here as we look for more ways to work together on the environment. And I greatly appreciated everything that you said, and I look forward to continuing this partnership with you. And since we’re on a first-named basis, Ville, I will look forward to hearing your southern British accent – (laughter) – on a future occasion.
This is an important announcement because, I think, as you heard, we have to continue to be creative as to how we move toward a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy. And I could not agree more with the ministers that they go hand in hand, and that’s really the message that the Ambassador has also been delivering. We’re looking for real solutions to real problems. And it’s absolutely true that we have to continue to work within the international community, the UN framework, because we have to bring the entire world with us. But it’s also true that on a national basis, and increasingly, on a regional and multilateral basis, we have to help lead the way for the world as well.
And that’s why it gives me great pleasure to officially welcome Finland as the newest partner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. This partnership was launched in February to reduce those short-lived climate pollutants, including the methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons that are responsible for more than 30 percent of current global warming and have a disproportionate impact on the Arctic for a variety of reasons, but in particular because of the hastening of the melting of the ice.
Now because these pollutants are harmful to health and to agriculture, we can actually save and improve millions of lives and avoid the loss of millions of tons of crops by acting now. When I started this coalition back in February, it was both developed countries and developing, along with the United Nations’ UNEP, which has done some of the groundbreaking research about why these short-lived pollutants are so important in our fight against global warming. In just the last four months, it has tripled in size. We’ve increased our funding. We’re creating an advisory panel to ensure that coalition efforts are guided by cutting-edge science. And last week, at the sustainability conference, Rio+20, the coalition launched a new initiative to reduce methane and other pollutants from landfills. We have encouraged and enlisted mayors from several major world cities. We also have the World Bank on board, and other countries are joining. In fact, all of the G-8 countries recently signed up to the coalition at the last meeting.
But we’re not stopping there, because we formed this coalition for the purpose of taking action, and demonstrating globally that we can actually do things, that we can translate our concerns and our words into actions and results. In partnership with the UN Environment and Development Programmes, the European Commission, and key private sector companies, we are co-hosting a conference in Bangkok this July to showcase new technologies that can drastically reduce the need for HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning.
Here is a perfect example of the problem: As you have a growing middle class in countries like India and China, where the climate can often get very, very hot, you have an increasing demand for air conditioning. The increasing demand for air conditioning in turn puts more HFCs into the air, thereby creating more of a problem from the short-lived pollutants. So what we want to do is try to get ahead of this, not to tell people – certainly, we in the United States are in no position to tell people, “Look, you’ve lived without air conditioning for thousands of years; you can keep doing it for the sake of the climate.”
No, instead we want to say, “Look, as you have developed, as your incomes have risen, we know that you want to take advantage of air conditioning, but let’s see if we can find a way to do that that is more climate-friendly.” And that is part of the mission that we have in this new coalition.
We’re also working with countries and companies to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production and black carbon from diesel emissions. I was recently in Norway, which also has just joined the coalition, and their state oil company, Statoil, has done research which shows that the leaking of gas from Russian pipelines is equivalent – the lost gas is equivalent to Norway’s entire production.
Now, you would think there would be both an economic reason, an energy reason, and a climate reason to try to become more efficient in the production of oil and gas, and we’re going to look for ways to do that.
Finland is such a leader in clean technology, including clean diesel, that we think Finland, in particular, has a great economic opportunity coming out of this coalition. Now let me be clear, the coalition on short-lived pollutants does not replace the crucial work we have to do on the broader range of climate change. We have to continue to look for ways to take on carbon dioxide emissions – and I guess I’ll keep talking until the rain goes. (Laughter.) Can we get everybody in back there who looks like they are trying to stay out of the weather, please? I mean, I think there’s room on the sides here. This is like coming late to church; you have to find room for everybody. (Laughter.)
So we do –Ville, we do have to stay focused on the next UN conference in Doha, and keep working toward and international agreement on carbon dioxide. Now for our part, the United States has not waited on either our own legislation or international agreements. We’ve already adopted fuel efficiency standards that will be among the most aggressive in the world, effectively doubling the miles per gallon of gas for cars in the U.S. by 2025. We’re reducing the government’s carbon footprint, and this innovation center is a perfect example of what our government is trying to do – I think this is a blessing. This is such a model of energy efficiency that we are working to achieve LEED platinum status. And we’ve even installed micro-wind turbines to provide electricity, and we’re using the highly efficient Finnish-designed heating and cooling system. And we’ve got Embassy vehicles that operate using diesel that are being upgraded to run on locally produced bio-diesel which will further reduce emissions by up to 50 percent. We’re switching the Embassy generators to bio-diesel as well, and all of our lighting will be converted to LEDs, which produce better light and use 80 percent less energy. So we’re reducing emissions and we’re also reducing costs.
We’re trying to do this around the world, and under Bruce’s leadership, the League of Green Embassies based right here in Helsinki is sort of spreading the word and spreading the best practices. So we’re doing a lot, and we have a lot to do, and I think it’s fair to say that having Finland as a partner really enhances the effectiveness of the coalition. And Finland’s leadership in sustainable development is a real model and I think, as Alex said, a great economic opportunity, because part of what we have to do is to continue to innovate, to create value-added products in order to retain a competitive edge in the global marketplace. And so Finland is demonstrating how we can make progress, improve lives, and fulfill our obligations to the planet.
So I’m excited to welcome you into this coalition, looking forward to working closely with you, and I think it’s fair to say that we see clean energy, clean tech as the future not only for Finland and for the United States, but really the future for the kind of world we’re trying to create.
So with that, I’m going to turn it back to you, Bruce, and maybe you could tell us about some of these light bulbs – (laughter) – while we stay out of the rain. (Applause.)
# # #