Full text: Nancy Pelosi’s US-China climate change speech

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at a US-China clean energy forum in Shanghai this week as part of a congressional delegation to China. Here is the full text of her delivered speech.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Senator Kerry will be joining you later today and I wanted to acknowledge, for as long as he has been in the US Senate and probably longer, I know his legislative record he has been a great leader on this subject preaching about this subject for over 20 years that I am aware of, any conference that has his participation is greatly enhanced by experienced leadership and determination to make a difference.

I too want to acknowledge the leadership of these organizations, John Watkins, Dennis Bracey, Stan Barr, Edward Markey, appreciated his remarks, Brenda Foster is here as well, president of Amcham Shanghai, where we spent a wonderful breakfast yesterday. All of you who have a wonderful role in this, Michael Barbalas as well, thank-you for the opportunity to come together to share some thoughts on where we are and where we are going, I thought the best way to do this was to talk about the most recent history what has happened to us in the last week.

We have come here in this spirit, before I go into what happened last week, we have come here in this spirit of cooperation because we believe China and the US can and must confront the challenge of climate change together.

We are the biggest emitters in the world; there are other countries that are way ahead of us on this issue, but by dint of the consequences of our actions we have a responsibility to ourselves, to our country, to our people and to the world to work together on this.
I know the belief is shared by all participants in this forum that that cooperation is necessary, you have said it over and over again today, but you have worked on it for a long time, my friend Nicky Cantor is my friend for over 30 years, 33 years, and he is a tremendous resource in this discussion, thank-you Nicky for your leadership and for being here.

Our delegation came here to learn more about the environmental challenges befalling, facing China and the policies being proposed by the Chinese government to confront [the issues]. Our delegation came here to engage with Chinese officials at all levels, to engage with American and Chinese business people, communities, Chinese citizens, students and non-profit organizations, we are in the course of doing that yesterday in Shanghai, and when we leave here we will be meeting with NGOs as well.

The timetable of our visit, was a timetable that enabled us to make important decisions getting the benefit of the thinking of the Chinese government and other sectors here in time for decisions that we have to make in preparation for Copenhagen [COP15].
It just so happens on Thursday the committee completed its work, so we can come here with great optimism about the prospects for what congress may do… we have a great deal of debate to go through yet, but I believe we have absolutely no choice but to take action, whatever form that may take.

On our way here, we went to Alaska, and stayed there overnight and visited with some tribal people to see what was happening to them and their villages which were being swept away. The melting of the tundra, the erosion of their land, into the sea, requires adaptation, that is the word we are hearing now, adaptation – “we cannot really do much about climate change, we have to adapt to it”. Well, we believe that we can make some changes to halt the climate crisis and the consequences being felt by those people.

But if you need any sense of urgency about this challenge, think of this: Alaska is a state of the Union, it is part of our country. Our committee has visited India and had discussions there, the EU have visited Brazil, we have been to Greenland, hearing ideas, seeing consequences and the rest. But we were in Alaska, a state of the Union, and we were seeing the consequences of climate change to individual people, to their villages, to their culture, to the flora, to the fauna, to the ecological balance there, and at the top of it all we saw something so dramatic, similar to what we have seen in Greenland, except that since this was at home it hit us even harder, if you have ice covering the Arctic, you have white. And it reflects heat, it reflects light. As that melts, you have a darker surface, dark water. It absorbs the heat. This thermal disruption, this thermal disruption has consequences for the future of our planet.

So even if China is not contiguous… to the Arctic, as we are, the consequences of that thermal disruption are felt here, whether it’s the encroachment of the deserts and the sandstorms felt in Beijing, whether it is the fact that millions of people live on the coastal areas, Shanghai for example, there are so many reasons why whether it is clean water for farmers to do their jobs, clean air for children to be healthy, these are issues that affect the entire world, and because of size and scale in China they affect it more significantly. Therefore, we are the biggest economies, we are the biggest emitters too and we have a responsibility to future generations.

Mr Markey talked about some of the elements, the sectors the business that had worked together to pass the legislation to the committee. I would say we have been successful and we will continue to be successful because in America as you all know many people believe and we all acknowledge that reducing our dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue, it is an economic issue, because we must invest in the technologies to reverse climate change, but also to make us competitive in the world economy.

And that is a motivation for the US and for China and for other countries as well. We must address this because it is an environmental health issue which is self-evident that we must reduce the pollutants in the air.

But one important part of the coalition that we are working on is with the religion, faith based communities, including the evangelicals, because they believe as many of us do that this planet is God’s creation and we have a moral responsibility to preserve it. Whatever your religious beliefs or not, we all agree we have a moral responsibility to future generations to preserve it.
With that in mind, a sense of urgency, the ice is melting at the top of the globe, the consequences are felt here, what is it we intend to do about it?

We are very proud, of the [US] legislation, we are also very proud in that … just a couple of days earlier, the President of the United States made an historic announcement, an historic announcement… an historic announcement, he announced an aggressive timetable for achievement the historic fuel efficiencies that Congress passed in 2007. That was our first step, the energy bill in the last congress, signed by President Bush, and now in this administration, the implementation of it. This on top of the recovery package that was passed in January and the budget that we passed on the 100th day of the President’s term in office. In that period of time, more has been done.. on the energy issue addressing climate change than any time in our history, there is nothing to compare to it, and that doesn’t even take into account what we are doing next, whether it was the grid, investments in technology, you name it.

I think you are aware of some of it and much of it is part of your eight points [see here] so we thank you for your leadership there.
So those are some of the things, we see energy and the investment in energy that go with it as a pillar in our economy and a source of economic recovery. I think from what I have heard so far from the Chinese side of this (and I think we are all in this together) is that the economic aspects of it are very very important to the Chinese as well. We all want to be number one, we all want to compete in the international marketplace and this is a place to do it. We keep saying over and over again, must work together on it.

I think the Chinese government should be commended on it… The Chinese government has taken the lead in so many ways. Reducing energy intensity by 20%, and its major pollutant emissions by 20% by 2010… 2010! Reaching 16% renewable share by 2020 including a huge investment in renewable energy in the year 2008. Requiring Chinese cars to get 36mpg, ahead of the US, ahead of the US in that regard, and crafting a stimulus package with one of the biggest green components of any nation.

China faces enormous challenges in meeting these goals… the laws may be on the books and there are good laws on the books… the compliance by the local and provincial authorities [missing text], and we hear from our Chinese colleagues there is great insistence – the government requires it, the public demands it, and so it will happen.
The monitoring capability of the implementation of these laws and access to the clean technologies that are the investments in science that we talked about.

We are greatly encouraged by our conversations in Shanghai. We met with civic leaders, NGOs, businesses, state-owned [enterprises], non-state owned private sector [companies] and they talked about new energy efficiency standards, the push to produce electric vehicles, one day this week we are going to Tianjin to see firsthand what is happening there, commitment o developing new renewable; energy, upgrades of old coal-fired power plants and the reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from the biggest polluting industries.
We heard it from the government, we are hearing it from other sectors as well. I told you on the way we stopped in Alaska, just to point out the urgency of the matter.

We don’t have much time. Two years ago when I was appointed speaker o the house, the [UN] secretary general came to see me, Ban Ki Moon, and he said, “Speaker if we don’t act by the year 2012, then it is going to be too late.” Thursday he came to my office again, two years later, I said, Secretary General, this is what you said two years ago, do you still have that same, I think I may have said “dreary”, or “dire” prediction. He said, “No, it’s worse.” Science tells us this is accelerating and we really must act.

… Young people are so far ahead on this subject they are demanding from their leaders action on this. And that is why I think there is hope, because the public, even small children, understand the need for conservation and efficiency and for important choices to be made,.
From my perspective, as speaker and as a long term member of Congress who has worked for many years on the issues of human rights around the world and the issues of environmental protection promoting human rights, protecting the environment, I think this climate change crisis is a game changer in US-China relationship.

It is an opportunity that we cannot miss.

One of the first bills I passed on congress, just an example, was the International Banking Environmental Protection Act. It was a bill that requires our executive directors of World Bank, Asian [Development] Bank, and of the multilateral development banks, in order to vote for a project, there had to be an assessment made and it had to be made known to the indigenous people and to the world in general to make a judgment about the impact on the economy, the environment in those regions.

What it did was empower power people, it gave voice to people about their communities and the environment in which they live. It was the coming together of protecting the environment and promoting individual rights, empowering people.

I think we have this opportunity now, because if we are going to make the changes necessary, you have your list of eight and other suggestions are being made at the same time, and if our governments and not just our governments but goverments throughout the world, are going to do this, it must be done with transparency, the same transparency that I brought with that bill so many years ago, but this is so much bigger, transparency and openness. Accountability to the people. Respect for the rule of law. These are.. about empowering people, and, again, and…, if we are going to invest in the technology, and we must, we must have respect for intellectual property rights.

So I think if we do this right, we can accomplish a great deal. We see the threads of workers’ rights, human rights, people’s rights, environmental justice: environmental justice, a principle that must be upheld as we go forward.

I mentioned the evangelicals earlier and how they have been part of our conservation on this. They have a two pronged approach; one is to protect God’s beautiful creation, preserve it, as God’s creation, and as we do so, the second point is, to not harm poor people. That people must be taken into consideration, and that again is an issue of environmental justice.

So we have an issue that is as big as the world, solutions that are as local as our communities and our own personal behavior; as urgent, according to the Secretary General, as a matter of years that this take place. That is why, being the two biggest emitters, having a tremendous impact on each others’ economy, recognizing that we have a lot to learn from each other, in admiration of the steps that have already been taken by the Chinese government, hopeful that they are able to implement what they have already put on the books, I am very optimistic, I am very optimistic, I look forward to meetings we will have in the next few days, we come to listen, to share our thoughts on the subject, but respectful that the best solutions for people are the ones that spring from their experience, their challenges, their prospects for the future. As I told Nicky and John and Dennis earlier, what you are doing is very important to all of us, and the intellectual resource you have provided and continue to provide on this issue is something that we will value. Needless to say I wish you well in your deliberations, a great deal is depending on it.

In closing I want thank the representatives of the Chinese government that are here, our friends…[text missing] they and members of my committee are determined that in that regard what it may lead to in terms of improving the relationship between China and the United States that our visit will be a successful one, and one that will be an enfurtherance again of a better understanding between our two countries, recognizing we absolutely have no choice, my children and grandchildren and yours as well have a lot riding on the decision we have to make.
I agree with Mr Markey, that our president., President Obama comes here, (whenever that visit will be, I am not sure, if I knew I could not say but I don’t know that a date has been determined), whenever that may be, to meet with the President of China, that we will all of us be so much further down the line in terms of what the options are, what the understanding is, and again, never never forgetting how high the stakes are.

Thank-you all very much for the opportunity to share some thoughts.

NOTE: The event was hosted by AmCham Shanghai. An audio version is available from AmCham here. The official transcript is not yet available; this transcript was prepared by Blue Skies China and is not approved or endorsed by the parties involved. The official prepared remarks can be found here

About James Ockenden (223 Articles)
A writer covering international energy and power markets since 1996
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