the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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Making Strides, Improving Standards

We’ve been seeing a lot of excitement about the dramatic change in environmental priorities in the executive branch, most recently about the consensus to develop a new international agreement on mercury. We asked Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to give us her thoughts.

As the President’s environmental advisor, I help develop policies, set priorities, and coordinate the efforts of the many agencies and departments of the Federal Government. Across the country, Americans have shown that they are eager to see improvements when it comes to the environment and the President has made it clear that he plans to make a lot of progress on this issue.

It is hard to miss the significance of the fact that one month to the day after the President was inaugurated, the United States led an effort to secure international consensus on the fact that we must take immediate action to reduce mercury emissions across the globe. This agreement between the United States and 40 other countries marks a major step forward in protecting human health and the environment from mercury, which can improve the lives of woman and children throughout the world.

I’m extremely proud that under the President’s leadership, we are taking a leading role in working with other nations to craft this global, legally binding agreement. I thought Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, captured the moment speaking to the Washington Post: "Only a few weeks ago, nations remained divided on how to deal with this major public health threat which touches everyone in every country of the world... Today, the world's environment ministers, armed with the full facts and full choices, decided the time for talking was over -- the time for action on this pollution is now."

The President said he wanted to protect our children from health hazards and developmental disabilities caused by environmental toxins. This commitment to reducing mercury emissions is a step in the right direction for future generations around the globe. As a side note, I also just wanted to say how exciting it is to be able to discuss this, and I am looking forward to seeing all of the wonderful things to come from the new whitehouse.gov.