You are here

Pelosi Remarks at Tsinghua Unversity in Beijing, China

'Thank you, Vice Chairman Yuan for your kind introduction.  Thank you, President Gu and Assistant President Song.

'I am proud to be joined by my colleagues from Congress, all of whom are experts on issues related to climate change and the environment.  They are all members of the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence.

  • Chairman Ed Markey of Massachusetts,
  • Republican Ranking Member James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin,
  • Earl Blumenauer of Oregon,
  • Jay Inslee of Washington.
  • Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, who was with us earlier this week.

'I would also like to acknowledge Chairman Li and Ambassador Zhou for their hospitality during our visit to China. 

'It is an honor to be here at Tsinghua University: one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world.  

'We have come to China, in the spirit of cooperation, because we believe China and the United States must address the challenge of climate change together.  Our delegation has come here to learn more about the environmental challenges facing China and the policies being pursued by the Chinese government to protect the environment. 

'We have come here to engage with Chinese officials at all levels, to engage with American and Chinese business communities, and with Chinese citizens, students, and non-profit organizations. 

'Addressing the challenge of global warming is an economic issue, a national security issue, an environmental health issue, and a moral issue. 

'The timing of our visit to China was planned in anticipation of the international negotiations in Copenhagen in December.  The world is looking to the United States for leadership. 

'It just so happens that our visit to China coincides with the House Energy & Commerce Committee passing legislation to establish mandatory reductions in global warming pollution and national standards for renewable electricity. 

'We intend to turn this historic and transformational legislation, co-authored by Congressman Ed Markey and Henry Waxman, into the law.  

'On our way to China, we visited Alaska, the frontline for global warming in our own country. We saw the personal consequences of climate change on Native Alaskans, from villages being relocated because of sea level rise to melting tundra.  As the Arctic ice cap melts, we lose the reflective capacity of the white ice, and all the sun's energy is absorbed by the blue ocean.  The thermal disruption has dire consequences for the future of the planet.

'Last week, I met with the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.  He had come two years earlier and warned that we have until 2012 to start reversing the effects of global warming before the damage may be irreversible.  He now said he believes addressing global warming is even more urgent then before, and we must act immediately. 

'While China's land does not reach to the Arctic, thermal disruption is felt here, too.  It is estimated that approximately 600,000 people in China die a year because of air and water pollution.   The glaciers of the Himalayan region are melting affecting the great rivers of Asia down to the Mekong Delta.  The Gobi desert is swallowing up grassland and sandstorms are felt in Beijing.  Rising sea levels threaten millions along China's western coast including the city of Shanghai.  And the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, is endangered and drying up in many places. Premier Wen Jiabao rightly stated that the shortage of clean water threatens 'the survival of the Chinese nation.'

'The Chinese government is to be commended for setting aggressive goals on energy and the environment, such as:

  • Reducing energy intensity by 20 percent and its major pollutant emissions by 10 percent by 2010;
  • Reaching a 16 percent renewable energy share by 2020 including a huge investment in renewable energy in 2008;
  • Requiring China's cars to get 36 miles per gallon; and
  • Crafting a stimulus package with one of the biggest green components of any nation

'China faces enormous challenges in meeting these goals including compliance, monitoring, and access to clean technology.  We were greatly encouraged by our conversations in Beijing and Shanghai.  We have met with government officials, civic leaders, NGOs, and the American and Chinese business communities. 

'In the United States, we are building upon progress we have already made to reduce our global warming footprint.  We passed new energy efficiency standards for buildings, appliances, and the first increase in vehicle fuel efficiency in over 30 years.  We directed an unprecedented investment in clean energy projects as part of our recovery package.  Last week, President Obama announced an aggressive timetable for achieving the historic fuel efficiency increases that Congress passed in 2007.  And, for the first time, we will regulate global warming pollution from vehicles. The United States has taken significant steps, but we a responsibility to do more.   Thanks to President Barack Obama, we are striving to meet that challenge. 

'I believe that the solution to environmental problems must be based on science.   Science has the answers and we must invest in it.  We do not have to make a choice between faith and science.  Both are in search of the truth. 

'I've been very concerned about the human rights situation in China and Tibet throughout my career.  I've been a strong critic of the policies pursued by the Chinese government in that regard.  I believe that two priorities of my service in Congress - protecting the environment and promoting human rights - are coming together in addressing the challenge of the global climate crisis.

'From my perspective, the global climate crisis is a game changer in the U.S.-China relationship.  It is an opportunity we cannot miss.  Our governments will have to make difficult decisions that must be based in science.  Addressing the challenge of the global climate crisis must be met with openness, transparency, respect for the rule of law, and the government must be accountable to the people. The principle of environmental justice must be upheld especially when poor people are more adversely affected by drastic environmental changes than others. 

'The future belongs to you - the young people of the world.  Young people understand that the relationship between the United States and China is essential to the peace and prosperity of our citizens, and to all citizens of the world.  And young people understand that the United States and China must lead the world in addressing the climate crisis.  Our fates are tied together. 

'With the intelligence, energy, and enthusiasm of the students of Tsinghua University, we can lead in addressing climate change.   Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.'