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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability Panel Discussion in Philadelphia, Penn, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

I’m very glad to be here with all of you for this meeting on the Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability. I know I speak for President Obama when I say thank you for joining us – especially those of you who have come so far to be here today. And I know I speak for my colleagues at EPA when I say how proud we are to be part of this collaborative effort. We are excited about the potential to do great things for our environment, for our economy and for our communities – especially those underserved communities where environmental and economic action is most needed.

In fact, I’ve already seen our work together having an impact. Last week I was in Miami and I had the chance to tour a sustainable, green housing development- a project that is providing affordable homes near multiple transit options. One of the companies involved in the development produces water-saving plumbing fixtures. They are one of EPA’s WaterSense partners. In addition to being part of that work, this company was part of its first Export Green Trade Mission to Brazil in August of last year. Over the holidays, they closed their first sale resulting from the trade mission. The company had its best year ever in 2011 – and they’re looking forward to hiring additional staff this year.

This is a great example – one of many – of what is possible through our work. Affordable homes and accessible transit; energy efficiency and water conservation; job creation and consumer savings; and new opportunities for innovative businesses. These are the benefits of smart, sustainable urban development. And they reflect changes that we must make in the years ahead.

As more and more people move into urban environments, we will be stretching the limits of our energy, water and food supplies. Growing cities will require not just new power and water sources, but also the infrastructure to deliver reliable energy and clean water to billions more people. We will need affordable housing and adequate transportation for people and products, as well as systems to address concentrated urban waste and pollution in the air and water. And last but certainly not least, it will be essential to generate economic opportunities that ensure widespread global prosperity.

These are no small tasks. But the extraordinary challenges they represent are matched by the opportunities they offer to strengthen our economy, our health and our environment. President Obama and President Rousseff recognized those opportunities, and brought our nations together for this Joint Initiative. As the two largest democracies and the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere, our unprecedented partnership can show the world how reinvesting in urban infrastructure and rebuilding aging urban systems can spark future growth that is both economically and environmentally sustainable. We can – and we must – also demonstrate how these efforts can benefit our most economically challenged and environmentally polluted communities. Without smart planning that focuses on those needs, the transition from rural to urban areas that is happening across the globe might only worsen those circumstances.

Let me also emphasize that this is much more than a partnership between two governments. We know that governments alone cannot address the full scope of urbanization challenges ahead of us. So the Joint Initiative is turning to leading private sector innovators, city planners, academics, environmental experts, urban developers, investors and financial institutions to spark enduring change. Through broad public and private collaboration, we can show the world how to build 21st century urban communities, where the environment, health, social inclusion and economic prosperity all go hand-in-hand. Brazilian and US officials are collaborating with environmental experts and city planners, connecting with US and Brazilian companies that specialize in sustainable innovation, and working with financial institutions to capitalize growth that will create jobs in the US and Brazil, while blazing the path for cutting-edge urban sustainability.

Through it all, we will be learning the best practices that can be translated to cities around the world. Not only can we improve our cities at home, but we can help expand a global market for innovative urban sustainability products and services. Right now, Brazil is preparing to innovate and develop the sustainable city of our future – in a period when the need for those advances is paramount. Here in the US, Mayor Nutter and the city of Philadelphia are doing great things with green infrastructure and other sustainable measures – leading the way, for example, in plans to reduce stormwater pollution. I’ve had the chance to see the work of cities like Philadelphia, as well as communities and companies across the country that are poised to contribute to a broad movement toward urban sustainability.

EPA is also doing its best to create momentum. We have joined forces with our Department of Transportation and our Department of Housing and Urban Development to align housing, transportation and environmental investments through a Partnership for Sustainable Communities. We also recently joined ten other federal agencies in launching our Urban Waters Federal Partnership, aimed at transforming urban waters into neighborhood centerpieces and foundations for sustainable economic growth. We are also using our brownfields program as a laboratory for innovation in sustainable development. For those of you unfamiliar with that program, brownfields efforts remediate polluted sites and make them available for reuse by the community. Often times the redevelopment of the sites includes green infrastructure, Smart Growth principles, efficient building techniques, or other steps towards building a sustainable city.

This Joint Initiative is coming together at a time of extraordinary urgency and incredible possibility. As Rio+20, the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, approaches in June, we have a chance to reshape the economic and environmental future of our entire planet. The lessons we learn, the partnerships we build and the innovative strategies we put in place will be a model for sustainable growth all over the planet. It is the rarest of opportunities to truly change the world, and make a difference that will benefit billions of people. How we undertake this mission will profoundly affect our future. I look forward to working with all of you on these efforts.

Thank you very much.