Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Earth Day Celebration

Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Earth Day Celebration
(As Prepared for Delivery)
U.S. Embassy, Phnom Penh
April 22, 2016

Mr. Keo Rattanak, Chairman of Electricity du Cambodia; distinguished guests; Embassy colleagues; ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate Earth Day and the 10th anniversary of this beautiful embassy compound.  This embassy building is a physical symbol of the strong bond between our two countries.  We are very proud that it incorporates so many features that reduce its impact on the environment.

Your Excellency, I want to congratulate you for your leadership in increasing access to electricity in Cambodia since you came to EDC eight years ago.  As we sign the Paris Climate this week, we are rightly focused on the climate impacts of the global energy industry, including the electrical power industry.

But it’s also true that access to power is a critical driver of development, and that EDC has made impressive progress on this front over the past eight years.  This success has opened the door for additional economic growth in Cambodia.  We look forward to working with you to explore renewable energy sources to power Cambodia’s future.

We are also proud to be part of a growing community in Cambodia committed to protecting the country’s environment for future generations.  This community includes hundreds of non-governmental organizations, both big and small, conscientious companies like EDC, GE and Coca Cola – all of whom are here today – millions of ordinary people around the country, and very importantly, strong leadership from the government of Cambodia.

We are excited by many positive developments in the environmental area.  Phnom Penh has a new master plan that includes more green space and the possibility of generating energy through the use of solid waste.

Environmental consciousness is spreading rapidly in the form of community efforts like Pop-Up Clean-Up events, the Keep Phnom Penh Clean movement, and other initiatives.   And earlier this week, Minister Say Samal and I viewed Prey Lang forest by helicopter.  The government’s decision to protect Prey Lang and four other forested areas is an incredibly important commitment and something we can all stand behind.

This embassy building also symbolizes the impressive progress in the city of Phnom Penh and Cambodia in general.   When it was built ten years ago, the new embassy building was a beacon of modernity in Phnom Penh.  But today, everywhere you look you see modern new buildings made of steel and glass towering over us.

But while we are no longer the flashy new kid on the block, we will soon be the only building in Phnom Penh using American-made solar panels to provide a significant portion of our electricity demand.   Our hope is that our experiment with solar panels, coupled with some common sense policy support from the government, will have a powerful demonstration effect and encourage other Cambodian companies and consumers to install their own solar arrays.

Secretary Kerry has asked that we do all we can to promote the Greening Diplomacy Initiative at our embassies across the world.  We have formed a “Green Team” that develops ideas on ways to reduce our carbon footprint—Susan, waive your hand so everyone can see where you are.  We have made a lot of progress so far.

We are reusing water from handwashing and dish washing to water our gardens.  We are installing GE LED lightbulbs throughout our 93 homes to reduce electrical consumption.  And we are separating paper, cans, plastics, and even gardening waste and partnering with multiple NGOs to turn these items into usable consumer items.

Some of these organizations are here today selling recycled products.  I invite everyone to stop by each table to find out more about these organizations and how we can do our part to make Cambodia even more beautiful that it is now.

I feel very fortunate to be the Ambassador in Cambodia at a time when environmental consciousness is developing so rapidly.  And I am very gratified to kick off the next 10 years of our partnership in a green building that will soon get even greener.

Thank you very much.