Thank you, President Shattuck for your warm welcome and for your kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be here today at CEU, an institution at the heart of important research, teaching, and learning in Central Europe.
The Embassy is proud to partner with CEU not just to organize this lecture, but also to support student environmental groups at 10 universities in Hungary as they launch the Sustainable University Network. Students in the United States and around the world have led efforts to protect the environment and to honor the natural beauty of their countries. Students in Hungary are playing an active part in that proud tradition, and the Sustainable University Network will enhance their efforts.
I am delighted to be here this evening and honored to represent the United States as the President’s personal representative to the government and people of Hungary. I first met President Obama many years ago when he was a Senator. I, along with a group of colleagues, met with him to discuss the need to take action on climate change. I remember walking out of that meeting and turning to my colleagues to say that he would become the President of the United States one day. I am very glad that day came.
The commitment of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to combatting climate change is steadfast and unwavering. As the President made very clear in this year’s State of the Union address, he is determined that American leadership will drive international action on climate change. With China, President Obama has achieved historic agreements to limit emissions, and with India, he recently signed agreements to invest in renewable energy as an alternative to traditional fossil fuel resources.
In Paris later this year, the President and Secretary Kerry are committed to reaching a new international climate change agreement that is ambitious, inclusive, durable, and rules-based to send a strong signal to the global community that the governments of the world are serious about the urgency of climate change.
The President’s leadership aboard is matched by his determination at home to shift the energy and economic landscape of the United States. Since 2009, the Federal Government has invested well over $90 billion dollars in energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives. These investments have further diversified the resources and sources of energy used and have helped reduce the share of coal for power generation by over 20%.
In Copenhagen, the President committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in the range of 17% from 2005 levels. The United States is on track to meet that target.
The drive and determination to innovate across the U.S. economy has been a critical component of lowering costs for clean technologies, of creating jobs and enhancing economic growth, and of finding sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. The investments that the United States has made in research and development from public and private sector resources are a vital “first step” in our innovation ecosystem and contribute to the importance we place on science and technology not just to tackle climate change, but also to transform and maintain our knowledge-based economy.
The role of science and technology helps us to first understand problems and then to find solutions that guide us towards a sustainable future. Effective science is built around collaboration with peers from around the world. I am proud that the United States and Hungary have a long tradition of scientific collaboration. I am committed during my tenure to support that collaboration.
In 2010, our governments signed a bilateral agreement on science and technology cooperation. I can proudly say that the result is impressive. There is a continuous flow of Hungarian scientists to the United States to participate in conferences and workshops, to give and attend lectures, to visit labs and conduct joint research. Since science collaboration is not a one way street – more and more American scientists are eager to come to Hungary.
We have one such scientist with us here today. Dr. Andrew Gillespie is a senior scientist at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. He is in Hungary as part of the State Department’s Embassy Science Fellows Program. This Program provides U.S. Embassies access to U.S. Government experts in areas of science and technology. Embassy Science Fellows’ work has contributed to policy development and collaboration with host governments, universities, and other organizations to build enduring relationships. The program is active throughout the world. Almost 300 Fellows have participated since its inception in 2001.
Dr. Gillespie is the first U.S. scientist to participate in the Program here in Hungary. He will spend one month at the University of West Hungary in Sopron teaching a seminar course on the subject of his lecture today to the students in the Faculty of Forestry. The Embassy is grateful to the University in Sopron and to Dr. Ferenc Lakatos, the Dean of the Faculty of Forestry, for hosting Dr. Gillespie.
Dr. Gillespie is Associate Director of the National Exposure Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. He provides scientific leadership for three of the six research divisions dealing with ecological exposure science in support of environmental protection. He has been with the U.S. EPA since 2004, and previously, he worked for 14 years at the U.S. Forest Service. He received his PhD from the State University of New York and completed his post-doctoral research at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He is a graduate of the Senior Executive Fellow Program at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. We are very fortunate to have him with us in Hungary to discuss the important subject of climate change and its impact on forests.
Before I turn the floor over to Dr. Gillespie, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of Raffi Balian, Anett Zellei and Tibor Kovacs who comprise the Regional Environmental, Science & Technology, and Health Hub for Central and Eastern Europe here at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. This team – which helped bring about today’s event – works to promote trans-boundary cooperation in the region on such pressing issues as climate, water, energy, and innovation. I invite all of you to follow the Hub on Twitter and the Embassy on Facebook. Please don’t be shy about letting us hear from you! We may not be able to respond directly to all of your comments, but I assure you we will take them to heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are as excited as I am to hear Dr. Gillespie’s lecture. Please welcome him.