Re: Commission for Environmental Cooperation Operational Plan for 2007-2009
The Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America;
IN ACCORDANCE with Article 16(4) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), which states that JPAC "may provide advice to Council on any matter within the scope of this agreement [...] and on the implementation and further elaboration of this agreement, and may perform such other functions as the Council may direct";
HAVING discussed an overview Work Plan for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) for 2007 with the public and Secretariat staff in a plenary session held during JPAC Regular Session 06-03 on 15 September 2006, in Montreal, Canada; and
HAVING later received the full, proposed CEC Operational Plan for 2007-2009;
SUBMITS the following observations and comments for Council's consideration:
First, JPAC recognizes that this is an impressive document which sets out the CEC's goals and objectives. The number of projects demonstrates the complexity and intricacies associated with the environmental matters that touch our three countries. The CEC is performing valuable and far-reaching activities that will affect not only North America but also the global environment for years to come.
In the spirit of moving the CEC toward being the best multilateral environmental institution of its kind, we do, however, have a few comments to which we would like to draw your attention. These are listed below.
- In the three program priorities, Information for Decision-making, Capacity Building, and Trade and Environment, we encourage the CEC to reach out to governmental institutions/agencies (including municipalities), academic institutions, and nongovernmental institutions within Canada, Mexico and the United States that may assist in supplying valuable information and synergies. Doing so will help avoid possible duplication while also providing the CEC with the opportunity to share its information and a way of making its work better known, via the web sites of these agencies and institutions. The networks that the CEC creates with other institutions are critical to its success. Solving our environmental problems requires the cooperation of all parties in civil society and the CEC can be a model of such cooperation.
Under Capacity Building, improving private and public sector environmental performance is an important project. Business and government are the two most important economic engines of any economy. Consequently, their leadership in environmental performance is paramount. This leads to our concern with the Clean Electronics Pollution Prevention Partnership component of project 2. It should be noted that the European Union has already implemented the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive, which is a companion to the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment) Directive. The CEP3 would be a voluntary version of RoHS. We believe it imperative that civil society be convinced that the voluntary approach, if it is to be adopted, is better than the mandatory, European approach. In order to be effective, any such system-voluntary or mandatory-will depend on the confidence of the public. Thus, the credibility and probable performance of such a voluntary system must be gauged in advance. For instance, the working group might address whether CEP3 could encourage European companies to dump electrical and electronic equipment that have been produced using the six toxic materials (lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls-PBBs, and polybrominated diphenyl ether-PBDE) now banned by RoHS in Europe or simply create a two-tier system whereby electrical and electronic equipment in Europe is more environmentally sound than that sold in North America. There are always unintended consequences/incentives associated with or created by a policy and these must be carefully examined.
- We noted, particularly during the presentations made at the 15 September JPAC meeting in Montreal, that some CEC projects seem to overlook public data or other projects that could complement/supplement (or perhaps replace) a CEC project. We feel that special attention should be given to this to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and expense.
- Wherever possible, target dates and specific goals should be listed for each project. This will, in our view, make the CEC work more accountable and transparent.
- Make the document more user friendly, i.e., concise; perhaps organized more as an executive summary with prioritization of topics.
As you are aware, JPAC held a 30-day public consultation period on the CEC web site, which began on 26 October and was extended until 29 November. The comments received from members of the North American public were of exceptional value and we commend all those who contributed. We believe that the CEC and the Parties can benefit from having these recommendations on hand and have thus prepared a table for your consideration (attached).
Finally, we would like to congratulate the CEC on its accomplishments and reiterate that JPAC is ready and willing to assist you in your efforts in the years ahead.
Approved by the JPAC
11 December 2006