Welcome Remarks by Ambassador Rick Barton, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, at an "Urban Greening in America" Event

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative on the UN Economic and Social Council 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
January 31, 2011


I’m Rick Barton, U.S. Ambassador to ECOSOC. Welcome and thank you for joining us here at the U.S. Mission for our discussion today. I’d like to extend a special welcome to the Permanent Representatives and Deputy Permanent Representatives from other Missions who have joined us here.

We are delighted to hold this event as part of the United Nations Forum on Forests, and to celebrate the launch of the International Year of Forests.

As you walked into the Mission downstairs, you may have noticed a few exceptional contributions to the “Forest in a Box” project, which the U.S. Mission is hosting with the U.S. Forest Service and the American Forest Foundation.

Students from across the country were asked to submit dioramas representing the forests of their home states, and six are displayed in the lobby if you’ve already seen them here—from New Mexico, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Montana, Florida, and Indiana. We hope you stop, take a look, and reflect on America’s incredible biodiversity.

Today, we are focusing on “green” initiatives at the local level, which, together, have had broad repercussions on the sustainability of our neighborhoods, cities, states, and nations.

Efforts like those that our speakers will talk about today are being noticed—in a big way—in Washington.

For proof, you need go no further than President Obama’s State of the Union address last week. The President shared the story of Robert and Gary Allen, brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company and, through U.S. government loans, are producing solar shingles that are being sold across the country.

The President also noted new American investments in renewable energy and projects at the California Institute of Technology, where scientists are developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars.

President Obama pledged that by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. To deliver this kind of transformative change, we will we need many more initiatives like the ones that you will hear about this afternoon.

We are honored to have with us the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, who has done extraordinary work on behalf of the President. And I am pleased to welcome our Public Delegate at the U.S. Mission, the former Mayor of Seattle, Greg Nickels who will be moderating this discussion.

Joining them are Audrey Choi, an old friend, who is Morgan Stanley’s global director of sustainable finance – and who boasts broad public- and private-sector experience promoting environmental sustainability – as well as David Bragdon, the Director of Long-term Planning and Sustainability for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Peter Mullan, without whom New York’s wonderful High Line project would not be what it is today.

What is happening in America’s cities is inspiring. It is important that we showcase green initiatives like the High Line that are blooming in cities all across America–from the Pacific to Manhattan. These are truly a testament to the ingenuity and the resourcefulness of the American people that President Obama described last week, but they also demonstrate the kind of potential that people have to create lasting, visible change in their communities, from the ground up.

Let us all learn from the ideas we hear today. Thank you to our distinguished speakers and to Lynne Gadkowski and Millie Meyers and their team for putting this together, and thank you all for joining us here today.


PRN: 2011/017