The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and Canada's Role Within It
Updated: May 23, 2020
The governments of Mexico, Canada, and the United States have been working together via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) to protect the continent’s ecosystems since 1994 (1). Canada signed the NAAEC agreement on September 14th, 1993 (1). The NAAEC encourages equal contributions towards combatting environmental issues while still supporting the trade policies of NAFTA (1). Through work within the NAAEC, Canada is able to bring international attention to the environmental issues going on within the country and establish relationships with other governments to combat these issues (1).
The main goal of the NAAEC is to engage in more sustainable trade practices and combat common environmental issues shared across North America (1). The participants of the NAAEC provide status updates regarding the condition of their environments and create environmental protection laws (1). In order to achieve these goals, the NAAEC has instituted committees including the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), which is made up of a Council, a Secretariat, and the Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) (1). The Council is responsible for managing the CEC and is made up of representatives from Cabinets of the participating countries (1). Members of the Council are able to appoint three citizens each to make up the fifteen members of the JPAC (1). The JPAC is an advisory committee to the Council that encourages participation from the public and transparency of the actions taken by the NAAEC (1). The Secretariat allows for residents of North America to submit complaints regarding their country’s ability to implement environmental laws (1).
Environment Canada is Canada’s representative in the CEC, with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on Council (2). Environment Canada collaborates with other governmental departments in order to incorporate environmental laws into other areas of interest like the trade concerns of NAFTA (2). The three participant countries work together to maintain good relations via trade and combatting common environmental concerns (2). The Government of Canada’s work within the NAAEC is to ensure that environmental laws are not weakened for the sake of trade, while also looking into more sustainable trade practices (3). The main focuses in a Canadian context include sustainable fishing and forestry practices, conservation of ecosystems and the species that inhabit them, and the distribution of environmentally friendly products (3).
More recently, a 2015-2020 plan was created by the Council, providing clear intentions for the CEC to enforce the production of biannual plans for hindering threats to their environments (1). The most recent meeting of the Council was held in Mexico City in 2019, focusing on limiting the waste of resources and discussing implementation of circular economic measures at different governmental levels (1).
Overall, the Government of Canada continues to work in collaboration with North American governments through NAFTA and the NAAEC to not only maintain effective trade practices, but to ensure that common environmental issues are being handled effectively.