PARIS — The top U.S. environment official says it's time for the United States to shed its energy-wasting image and lead the world race for cleaner power sources instead.
After several years with a relatively low profile under President George W. Bush, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "is back on the job," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told The Associated Press on Thursday during a trip to Paris.
What the EPA does domestically this year will be watched closely overseas. Nations worldwide are working toward a major meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at producing a new global climate pact. The U.S. position on curbing its own pollution and helping poor countries adapt to global warming is seen as key to any new pact.
Jackson was in Paris for international talks on how rich governments can include global climate concerns in overall development aid.
She dismissed worries that economic downturn was cutting into aid commitments or investment in new energy resources. She said the United States should take the lead on clean energy technology, recession or no.
"We have to get in the race now _ and win it," she said. "I don't expect a moving backwards because of recession."
At climate talks in Paris earlier this week, European environment ministers welcomed greater U.S. commitment to environmental issues under the Obama administration _ but said it still wasn't aiming high enough in its targets for cutting U.S. emissions.
Jackson said a shift in the American mindset is only beginning.
Talking about energy efficiency and saying companies should pay to pollute _ "that's a revolutionary message for our country," she said.
For a long time, she said, "People didn't even expect the EPA to show up" at events, much less set policies that could be seen as examples for the rest of the world.
"Now it seems like every day we're rolling back or reconsidering a Bush era policy on clean air," she said.
She said it was time for the United States to take a more active role in limiting chemical pollutants, after falling behind Europe in that domain.
The U.S. also has lessons to learn from countries such as the Netherlands, she said, after visiting its low-lying, flood-prone lands to study ways cities like her native New Orleans can better manage water.