Why EPA is the Gold Standard for Environmental Protection around the World

It makes sense: when we cut pollution globally, Americans benefit right here at home.

Air pollution doesn’t respect national borders. In fact, pollution, sometimes in significant amounts, can come to the U.S. from as far away as Asia or Africa. And regardless of where it comes from, it can still make us sick. So when other countries cut down on pollution, it helps Americans’ health.

At the same time, shifting weather patterns, seasons, and disease vectors from global climate change have a range of impacts here in the United States. When other countries cut carbon pollution, it helps protect our own public health, infrastructure, and food supply from more severe storms, droughts, and floods.

The great news is, EPA is considered the international gold standard for environmental protection. Countries around the world are eager to work with us to achieve protections that benefit everyone.

Here are 4 reasons why:

1. We have 45 years of experience and proven results.

Since EPA was created in 1970, the U.S. has made dramatic progress in protecting human health and the environment. We’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent, cleaned up thousands of contaminated sites, phased out toxic DDT and leaded gasoline, and protected thousands of waterways  --  all while our nation’s economy has tripled.

The United States also has one of the most robust and innovative, science-based environmental rule of law systems  -- and we have decades of experience with the many moving pieces that are required to enact, enforce, and defend environmental laws and regulations. We often provide guidance and technical assistance to other countries seeking our help to achieve their own environmental goals.

2. We’ve built trusted relationships and broad networks for collaboration.

Many of EPA’s relationships with foreign counterparts have been built over the course of years, or even decades. Just look at Canada. The U.S. northern border with Canada is the longest shared border between any two countries on Earth. We co-manage key natural resources like the Puget Sound, Niagara Falls, the upper Columbia River, the Great Lakes, and transboundary air quality along the whole border, as well as critical transportation, shipping, and tourism activities that interact with the environment. EPA and Environment and Climate Change Canada have worked closely with each other for decades to get the job done.

We also know that the more we collaborate, the broader our reach extends. Along with our counterparts in Taiwan, EPA launched a global network of experts to strengthen capacity to address specific environmental challenges worldwide. Together, we’ve established Eco-Campus partnerships between schools in the U.S. and Taiwan, expanded mercury monitoring across the entire Asia Pacific Region, helped countries on four continents explore new ways of managing electronic waste. None of this could be accomplished by a single entity working alone.

3. We’re committed to transparency and participation.

In 2008, EPA worked with the US Embassy in Beijing to report credible air quality data from monitors on its roof. Like the AirNow platform EPA uses at home, the Embassy monitor released online data about levels of harmful particulate matter in the local air. It was the first open source of accurate information about the Beijing’s air quality, and it empowered Embassy staff and their families to consider air quality in making decisions about their daily activities. As time went on, local residents relied on these data to push for expanded monitoring and cleaner air. Today, the program has started expanding to other American diplomatic posts around the world.

EPA prioritizes transparency, openness, and participation in all that we do — not because we have to, because it works. Our proposed Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from the U.S. power sector drew 4.3 million public comments. Our draft Clean Water Rule drew over 1 million. Countries look to us as model for engaging the public, and we’ve developed a free, onlineInternational Public Participation Guide to help any country who wants to boost their own engagement efforts at home.

4. We do cutting edge scienceand we share it.

EPA employs world-class scientific experts and leads cutting-edge research in high-tech labs across the country — and we don’t keep our expertise to ourselves. EPA supplies countries around the world with technical assistance, tools, technologies, and insights that help them promote their own clean air, water, and land, as well as address global challenges. In China, we’ve shared expertise on how to monitor and reduce air and water pollutants. In Peru, we’ve trained local miners in healthy practices to reduce exposure to toxic mercury. In the Arctic, we conducted a study to find low cost ways to reduce black carbon.

And building on the idea that scientists and engineers can be pioneers in international collaboration, EPA participates in the Federal Government’s Embassy Science Fellows program  --  regularly placing our top-notch scientists in short-term assignments at U.S. posts abroad, where they can provide hands-on science, math, and engineering support for specific projects around the world.

All this adds up to serious global credibility. So when major environmental policies are negotiated on the international stage, EPA is always a leading voice at the table.

In 2013, the United States became the first country to sign the Minamata Convention on Mercury, setting the table for other countries to join a historic agreement to reduce toxic mercury pollution worldwide. And last December, EPA’s Clean Power Plan was a centerpiece of the U.S. commitment that paved the way for the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

Time and again we’ve seen that when EPA leads, other countries step up and unite in action. Later this month in Vienna, I’ll work with international counterparts toward an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to cut harmful hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

I’m confident that with U.S. leadership from the EPA and our partner agencies, we can make even more progress to get the job done.

About the Author: Gina McCarthy serves as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appears in EPA Forward publication on Medium.com. 

Editor's Note: This entry originally appears on Medium.com. 

EPA Administrator McCarthy visited the Portage glacier near Anchorage, Alaska to see first-hand some of the impacts of climate change. [USEPA]
Posted by Gina McCarthy
July 5, 2016


Latest Stories

January 19, 2017

What We Got Right

With a new administration taking office this week, it is natural to assess the inheritance it will receive from the… more