Latest News

Former EPA admin preaches virtue of clean energy during UOIT speech

Gina McCarthy, the former administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Barack Obama, speaks during her keynote speech during UOIT’s Futures Forum. (Photo by Aly Beach)

By Aly Beach/The Oshawa Express

In the coming years, powerful countries are going to be the ones ahead of the game when it comes to clean energy, at least that is according to Gina McCarthy, the former administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

McCarthy was welcomed as the keynote speaker for UOIT’s 2018 Futures Forum on May 2 and spoke about climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency in the U.S., along with the impact the current administration under President Donald Trump is having on the EPA and their climate change initiatives.

McCarthy, aside from being former administrator for the EPA under president Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, is also the director of the center for health and the global environment and a professor the Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

During her tenure with the EPA, she helped create many new rules to improve quality of life through the environment. Most notable, she finalized a rule under the Clean Water Act which proposed a new definition of “waters of the U.S.,” and finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015 under the Clean Air Act.

“I lead the charge in [Washington] DC under president Obama to really take action, to make his climate action plan become real, to bring it to life, to make movement fluid so the world could see that we were doing what we were supposed to do so we could encourage them to do the things they needed to do as well, for all of us” said McCarthy.

McCarthy quickly addressed the elephant in the room: The Trump administration’s actions to dismantle previous climate change initiatives created during the Obama era.

“The current administration, as we all know, is questioning climate science…they have started on the road to roll back everything that was ever done, or thought about, or contemplated, ever, by anyone ever associated with president Obama,” said McCarthy.

With that said, she added this does not bother her nearly as much as people would think, as she believes that with or without the government’s help, clean energy will take off.

“It is a time of great hope. And no one is going to take that away from me. And if any of us let anyone do that to us, then they will take away our ability to energize and excite the kind of movement in the world that we need,” said McCarthy.

Although the U.S. has announced it will be pulling out of the Paris Agreement and is in the process of undoing the Clean Power Plan, she is not giving up. According to McCarthy, the administrations decisions are contrary to not just science, but to the country’s best economic and business interests. She set the tone by reminding everyone that what happens in Washington, D.C. does not represent the rest of the country. She said the administration will not control clean energy.

“Stop thinking that we have shut down everything because the federal government is not working in our best interest,” said McCarthy.

For her climate change is not just simply an environmental issue, but a public health issue. She says it’s not just about starving polar bears, as according to McCarthy, 1.1 million people died prematurely in India due to air pollution in 2015.

“That’s why I am working at the Harvard school of public health. Because I honestly believe that if we want to make climate change real…that we have to connect it to health,” she said.

While McCarthy thinks the spark in the clean energy sector is beneficial, she is disappointed with the marketing of climate change. Instead of showing the public photos of the polar bear, McCarthy believes they should be shown the environmental and health benefits of clean energy. She says people should invest in it, as “it’s the real winner.”

“The most disappointing thing, I think, about today is that while renewable energy and energy efficiency is a winner for pocketbooks, and it is a winner for our planet,” said McCarthy, “What we’re failing to do is send the absolute market signal we should to tell everybody in the United States, that clean energy is it.”

“Whoever wins in the clean energy race is going to be the strongest country in the world,” said McCarthy.