Take my pollution
Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Alan Nymark
Summary by Garrett Huntley
One of the issues that really challenge integration is the environment. Security issues dealing with water and energy pertain to security in that there will be many challenges dealing with sustainability.
Has the fact that we have a side-deal with NAFTA jeopardized our environment and led to the concentration shift from environment to trade? Have we become too fixated on keeping trade and at the same time forgetting our duties to the environment that we need to sustain life?
Governmental policies dealing with the environment will really have a large impact on environmental issues. These issues are quality of life issues when dealing with Canadians. NAFTA was not the beginning of continentalism when dealing with environmental issues. The IJC was developed in 1909 followed by the Commission of Migratory Birds in 1919. These agencies started the continental affairs in terms of the environment. The Air Quality Act is another agency.
Have the agencies created by NAFTA dealt with environmental policy and decision making in the proper way? There are four issues that we are going to have to deal with
Harmonization in the continental framework dealing with the environment.
The degree to which the future lies in achieving economic goals.
Looking at our government systems and making sure that each government has coherent rules and roles so that we can follow suit.
Continental cooperation. Multilateral issues. Kyoto Protocol.
Harmonized standards should not be a race to lower those standards. It is not acceptable. It should be a race to increase these standards and if anything can be done about it, it should not be a race at all, but maybe a relay. Helping each other reach international standards.
No one country can take on all of these standards alone. In Canada we have until 2006 to deal with chemicals that could be detrimental to the environment. The US does not have any regulations like these, so Canada is the front-runner in terms of international environmental standards. We need to propose these regulations to the US.
Emissions trading systems are now becoming international with the US now onboard. In Canada we are looking at national and international emissions trading systems.
We do not have a uniform environmental system for all of Canada. More power is given to the provinces or regions to make their own laws and legislation. It would help a great deal if we did have a uniform system so that when we go to the high level governmental agencies we will be a team, not a lot of different pieces.
Because Canada is doing so well with environmental issues our influence will rub off on our trade partners because they will see what we are doing and feel it necessary to fall in line. The Kyoto protocol is a good example of this. We studied social, political, and environmental issues and then debated on whether or not the Kyoto protocol was a worthy document to sign. After we decided to sign there came a wave of other nations who did the same thing. Hopefully this trend will continue with other environmental issues.
Considering the fact that we are part of North America and 85% of all of our trade is done with our two North American neighbors it was difficult to reach a verdict on whether or not to sign the Kyoto protocol. It was difficult because the other two nations were not going to sign the protocol. We had to consider whether or not our economic situation would be jeopardized by our decision to sign the Kyoto protocol. Negotiations with the US are necessary because we cannot move forward with continental issues without them.
The environment is a global, public good and the action is taking place at a local, regional, and international level. Most of the dealing is local and regional though, so we need to make the international level stronger.
Where does Mexico stand on Kyoto?
What is going on in Mexico in terms of the environment?
1 of every 10 types of species of flora and fauna and animals are found in Mexico. It is very difficult to encompass all of these different species with one type of law.
Until the early 1980s there were little environmental issues present in the governmental agenda. The standards are increasing but it has been difficult because the standards that Canada and the US have been increasing for 25 have been attempted in 5-10 years. This leads to corporations having to change standards quickly, thus hurting their profits.
Water is a major issue in Mexico. There is little water in Mexico and when it comes it comes in huge amounts, therefore causing flooding problems. It is a lose-lose situation. Also water rights were different in the one party system. Many do not pay water rights therefore they use it irresponsibly.
The air-quality is getting much better and is the most successful environmental issue in Mexico. Forests are the newest issue in Mexico. Clear-cutting forestry has been employed for too long. The lack of trees leads to a lack of water in the aquifers.
Mexico has ratified the Kyoto protocol because they are still a developing country. The emissions are the 16th highest in the world overall and therefore we are failing to comply with any of the standards under Kyoto.
NAFTA has helped the environmental issues a great deal since its introduction. Chapter 11 has worked well in Mexico because private investment has influenced the corporations to better their emissions standards.
The CEC complaints have dropped dramatically over the last 3 or 4 years. The Article 14-15 needs to be reformed because it does have very good ideas, but it needs to be rethought and redrawn with all three North American countries in mind.
Todays administration in the US has broken the historically straight line of environmental issues. Regulation and international commitments are the two bogy men that have made the US administration break the line.
The different styles of government with the White House and the Congress also lead to different opinions on issues. Often times one party will not agree with another party and therefore vote down any legislature in the Congress or the Senate. This happens quite a bit with environmental issues. The Senate is also another problem in getting legislature passed. Not everyone approves or agrees on every issue. All of these factors impact our environmental policies to a great extent.
Progress is a difficult thing to measure when dealing with environmental issues. The time that it takes for an environmental problem to be taken care of is often longer than people are willing to wait. The costs are often too large for people to agree with in terms of their taxes.
Countries who are in the throws of development are often the ones producing most of the emissions problems we face today. Therefore the developed countries are saying that they should only have to live up to the standards of the developing countries. This is a big problem in the US especially. Developed countries have promised funds to the developing nations if they act responsibly, but they never follow through, thus the developing nations do not keep up their end of the bargain either. This leads to a perpetual cycle of doing nothing.
Two things will lead the US to Kyoto. A change in administration, or the realization of this administration that the money they are spending now is huge compared to what they would be spending if they agreed. The second is if the international community comes together and pressures the US into becoming involved. The pressure of big businesses on the international community is only making the protocol move farther away from being signed. We need US businesses and citizens of the US along with the international community to put pressure on the US government to fall in line with the other North American nations in terms of Kyoto and other environmental issues.
Question and Answer
Just because the US has not signed the Kyoto it does not mean that the US is behind Canada in terms of environmental legislature. The state level in the US has been proven to be well ahead of Canada in certain cases, yet the national level is not where it should be. Canada has the right idea by signing the protocol, but that is not saying that the US is far behind.