France and Virginia Sign Sustainable Development Agreement
Governor, cher Terry McAuliffe,
M. le Consul Général, cher Olivier,
Ladies and Gentlemen, chers amis,
It is a great honor for me to welcome Governor McAuliffe and his cabinet members to the Maison Française at the French Embassy. I would like to express my warmest thanks to the Governor for taking some of his precious time to join us today for this important event. I consider the Governor a friend, and certainly a friend of France, and it’s a privilege to have him join us here today.
There is a special relationship between France and Virginia, solidly rooted in our shared history as illustrated by the battlefield of Yorktown and the Rochambeau Route. And we are also working closely together on the economic front. France is the second largest foreign investor in the state of Virginia.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our event today could not come at a better time as the French-American relationship has never been closer, as exemplified by President Hollande’s very successful state visit to the United States exactly one month ago. It was the first state visit by a French President since that of Jacques Chirac in 1996 - nearly 20 years ago, and it strongly highlighted the closeness, the friendship and in many ways the unprecedented degree of cooperation that exists today between our two countries on each and every front.
The United States and France are each other’s closest allies in the fight against terrorism, our two countries are in the forefront of international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons- state, and we are working very closely together on the crisis in Ukraine and Syria.
The state visit also saw the signature of numerous agreements to further cooperation between our two countries, in science, research, economic development and education.
Building on this, I am therefore very pleased today to sign with Governor McAuliffe this very first partnership agreement between France and Virginia, dedicated to sustainable development.
France and Virginia both share the passion for protecting their environment and their beautiful landscapes.
As we all know, the sustainable development of our cities and urban areas is always a real challenge.
A challenge for transportation.
A challenge for energy production, transportation and storage.
A challenge for the building sector, to develop energy-efficient buildings. And a challenge for water management, not only with respect to drinking water but also water as a key component of tourism, agriculture and fisheries.
But these challenges - and this is I believe an important message - also represent a unique opportunity to exchange best practices to foster innovation and business; and to find solutions that incorporate climate and the protection of natural resources in our policies and initiatives, which will have a direct impact on the local quality of life and attractiveness.
And when we really think about it, the sustainable development of our communities offers us strong economic opportunities for mass transit, for the development of more efficient buildings that will reduce people’s energy bills and limit greenhouse gas emissions. I could go on and on, listing dozens of examples.
We’re lucky to have here with us the CEOs and VPs of private companies that have developed solutions to these challenges. They will have the opportunity to present their initiatives right after the signing.
Thanks to you, to your investments and R&D efforts, we are now able to link economic development and sustainability. Thanks to you, we will be able to tackle these challenges in France as well as in Virginia.
This partnership agreement we’re about to sign today is not only about France and the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is also an embodiment of the efforts that our two countries are making to respond to the challenges of the environment and specifically climate change.
As you know, at the end of 2015, France will host the so-called COP 21, the conference where an international climate deal will hopefully be reached. It’s important to bear in mind that 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from urban areas.
That’s why sustainable cities and infrastructures will be at the center of our effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The initiatives we develop can help other countries face the challenges I’ve mentioned.
This partnership is a great example of the kinds of initiatives we can take to create a “positive agenda” to face climate change.
There are many other initiatives that each of us can promote. For example, right here at the Embassy, through the Green Embassy Project, we’ve made investments to reduce our environmental footprint and carbon emissions. We changed the lightning and installed a new Building Automated System (BAS) to help regulate the heating and cooling of the building. In 2 years, for an initial investment of $300,000, we were able to save nearly $200,000 in energy bills!
We also have a green roof that reduces storm water runoff, improves the building’s thermal and acoustic insulation and helps the staff work in more pleasant conditions.
I’m proud to sign a partnership with you today that will allow us to develop new solutions to face climate change, improve quality of life, create jobs, and generate new economic opportunities.
I would like to thank you once again for your great support and thank your staffer, Tracy Retchin, for her crucial involvement on this project as well as Dale Medearis, and my team here at the Embassy, especially Vincent Delporte, for making this partnership possible.
So my warmest thanks again to each and everyone of you, and let me conclude in French:
Vive la Virginie !
Vive la France !
Et vive l’amitié entre la Virginie et la France !