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Indoor Air Partnership Launch, Johannesburg, South Africa

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Indoor Air Partnership Launch
Johannesburg, South Africa

September 3, 2002

Thank you. Earlier this week, the United States announced a clean energy initiative aimed at alleviating poverty by revolutionizing the delivery of energy services to the world= s rural and urban poor.

The A Powering Sustainable Development @ initiative will provide access to affordable, reliable, clean and efficient energy services that are essential to breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving sustainable development.

The three main goals of this initiative are to increase access to energy, increase energy efficiency, and improve health through lower air pollution. Today, as part of this effort the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is launching A Healthy Homes and Communities @ to improve air quality in developing countries.

Healthy Homes and Communities addresses two environmental problems that arise from energy use: indoor air pollution in homes from cooking and heating practices, and outdoor air pollution from motor vehicles. At this gathering, I = m pleased to launch a partnership between nations, industry, and NGO = s aimed at improving the quality of indoor air.

Our homes are meant to be havens for us, for our families, and for our children. The air inside our homes should be part of a nurturing environment, yet it= s a terrible fact that millions of people around the world are exposed to dirty air while they eat, sleep, and spend time indoors.

Unhealthy indoor air is all too common in developing countries, where people still rely on coal and biomass fuels, such as wood and dung, for cooking and heating needs. In crowded and poorly ventilated settings, these types of fuels lead to dangerous levels of indoor air pollution. As a result, an estimated 2 million people die each year from just breathing the air inside their homes.

Of particular concern is the fact that children bear the brunt of this reality. Over 80% of all deaths in developing countries attributable to air pollution-induced lung infections occur in children under 5. Children are our most valuable natural resource. Central to the concept of sustainable development is the ability of children to sustain, build, and improve the societies they inherit.

The United States and our partners on this issue are committed to making sure that developing countries are not continually robbed of their children, and thus, their future.

We are rising to meet this challenge today with an indoor air initiative that will focus on community outreach, developing pilot programs, supporting local businesses and technologies that provide more efficient heating and ventilation, and researching health effects of indoor cooking and heating.

The United States believes that in order for real progress to be made on this issue, we need a strong partnership that can set and pursue our shared goal of reducing mortality due to indoor air pollution.

I want to thank the governments and organizations that have already joined the United States in this effort, and I will continue during my time here in South Africa to seek additional support from our partners around the world.

Specifically, I would like to express my gratitude to Mexico, Canada, Shell Foundation, and Winrock International for your support and for being here today.

As we have learned time and time again, cooperation and shared commitment is the path to real results. Only by working together can we hope to achieve success on this important issue, and looking at the partnership that we have already built I know that we will leave South Africa with a renewed dedication to providing the people of the world with clean air and healthy homes.

Thank you.