This video gives an overview of our work for the past quarter-century on biodiversity conservation, improving environmental quality, addressing climate change, and promoting sustainable growth and healthy communities across North America.
Scroll through our milestones to see the impact of our work since the Commission was founded in 1994:
Council Session in Mexico City and celebration of 25 years of the CEC.
The CEC Joint Public Advisory Committee hosts their first-ever public consultation in Puerto Rico to discuss community-based approaches to disaster resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria
The North American Marine Protected Area Network (NAMPAN), created by the CEC, became a self-sustained independent network; publishing tools for managing change and resilience in marine protected areas (MPAs).
The CEC launched initiatives on preparedness and resilience to extreme events. By sharing best practices, assets, and capacities, our three countries are working together to improve resilience within our communities and shared ecosystems to minimize the effects of these events.
After extensive research and consultation, the CEC released action plans to support five priority North American species groups listed under Appendix II of CITES, an international treaty that regulates trade in wildlife (parrots, turtles and tortoises, sharks, tarantulas and timber). In June 2017, the CEC announced that work would continue under an implementation phase: an innovative conservation project that engaged multiple partners to achieve legal, sustainable and traceable production and trade in four priority species.
The CEC embarked on a major public outreach campaign to highlight simple actions North American citizens can take to help protect the monarch butterfly and its habitat along its migratory corridors in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The CEC also supported the expansion of the US National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge to Canada and Mexico. Before the project concluded, seven municipalities in Canada had taken the pledge, including Montreal, the third-largest city to take the pledge in North America, and the mayor of the municipality of Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, had become the first to take the pledge in Mexico.
Tidal wetlands, mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass beds play a vital role in trapping and storing carbon. In 2016, the CEC released a collection of maps and publications to advance the conservation and restoration of coastal habitats across North America, showing over 45, 000 km² of blue carbon mapped to date. The CEC’s work on blue carbon includes improved data, better mapping, and new approaches in our understanding of carbon quantities and dynamics in North American blue carbon ecosystems.
The North American Energy Management Pilot Program was launched, providing training and support to multinational companies to adopt the globally recognized ISO50001 energy management standard. The CEC program will be expanded in 2017 to include major industrial supply chains, further contributing to a more harmonized North American approach to energy management.
Following the publication of the CEC Sumidero Canyon II Factual Record, the Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) of Mexico released a statement on its continued efforts to preserve the National Park and hold the company operating in the park accountable for alleged damage to the canyon. Mexico continued working with the company operating in the park to relocate its production operations. At the time of the publication of the factual record, the company had already suspended material extraction activities from the quarry.
The CEC Council met to celebrate 20 years of environmental cooperation in North America in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Canada, Mexico and the United States look forward to many more decades of collaboration via the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an institution that will continue to have a critical role to play in working to protect our shared environment.
In 2013, the CEC launched the North American Grasslands Alliance: A Framework for Change, which lays a strong foundation to bring about the deep changes that are required for a continentally integrated planning and management approach to achieve lasting sustainability of the North American grasslands. This Framework contains foundational principles, objectives and priorities to sustain working landscapes, conserve biodiversity, and support vibrant rural communities across North America. It represents the work of over 70 grassland experts from Canada, Mexico and the United States, who joined forces to develop this collaborative approach.
North American governments provide a strong model of regional cooperation in law enforcement through the CEC enforcement groups. To date, the CEC has conducted training activities and maintained online training platforms to help more than 600 environmental, wildlife, and customs officials to identify illegal shipments of environmentally regulated materials, such as ozone-depleting materials, hazardous waste, and endangered species of wildlife subject to illegal shipments.
The CEC’s North American Marine Protected Area Network (NAMPAN) culminated a decade of marine work with the publication in 2012 of two guides for designing marine protected areas networks in a changing climate and the development of five films on the benefits of marine protected areas. The MPA films were developed in collaboration with North America’s aquariums and have had over 150,000 online views.
The CEC Council Ministers announced the creation of the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) grant program. NAPECA has delivered millions in funding to support environmental protection and preservation at the community level across North America.
Studies show that in many native communities in rural Alaska, a combination of substandard housing, overcrowding, poor indoor air quality, lack of indoor plumbing and other environmental factors are leading to chronic respiratory health issues. In 2011, the CEC launched a project in Alaska, United States aimed at reducing the need for respiratory medical treatment among high-risk children in several of these communities. The project partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to identify children with a history of serious and frequent respiratory problems and perform targeted inventions in the home (improved ventilation, installing of efficient wood-burning stoves) to improve indoor air quality. As of 2014, the pilot project had remediated 47 households housing 161 children in six communities, with results showing a decreased number of hospitalizations and missed days of school.
A CEC project funded the creation of the Mexican Alianza Verde Automotriz branch of the North American Suppliers Partnership, creating a continent-wide alliance of auto manufacturers collaborating and championing sustainable practices in the auto supply chain.
The Secretariat launched an independent report under NAAEC Article 13 to evaluate opportunities for making freight transportation more sustainable in North America. The transportation sector contributes about 26 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in North America, and at least a quarter of that share is related to transporting freight. The report, Destination Sustainability: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Freight Transportation in North America, identifies several recommendations for action by the three countries, including putting a price on carbon and reducing border delays while trucks idle. The report has been influential in shaping cooperation activities under the trinational cooperation programs of the CEC.
Using data and mapping from national programs, the CEC launched the North American Environmental Atlas, a free online mapping tool that contains more than 65 map layers covering Canada, Mexico and the US. The Atlas layers include changes in land cover such as crops, forests and urban areas, locations of watersheds, marine ecoregions, facilities reporting pollutants, CO2 emissions, protected areas and climate layers. The CEC supported the partnering of the national atlas programs from Natural Resources Canada, the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI—National Institute of Statistics and Geography), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to create seamless maps and data to better understand North American environmental issues and visualize change across the continent.
With CEC support, Mexico made it mandatory for industrial facilities to report on 104 toxic chemicals and created the Registro de Emisiones y Transferencia de Contaminantes (RETC). The creation of the mandatory RETC demonstrated the benefits of international cooperation in North America. From the earliest days of the CEC in 1995, Canada, Mexico and the US had agreed to develop what was then the world’s first matched set of trinational data on pollution releases and transfers. The CEC’s flagship Taking Stock report and online database continues to be an important tool for promoting public access to PRTR data to improve understanding of the sources and management of pollutants of common concern.
The CEC unveils six of the first trinational conservation plans formulated for North American wildlife species. The North American Conservation Action Plans (NACAPs) included: the humpback whale, pink-footed shearwater, leatherback turtle, burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, and black-tailed prairie dog. In addition, detailed trinational actions and sustainable economic activities in the communities involved in conservation were developed to protect the Vaquita marina porpoise and the iconic monarch butterfly. The action plans established a common conservation approach across the continent, and presented actions to reduce threats, share expertise and provide key information to the public and wildlife officers. CEC efforts to implement the NACAPs included training and information-sharing programs on monitoring and conservation techniques of the target species.
The CEC’s trinational cooperation on shade-grown coffee had direct trade benefits for the three countries. In 2003, Starbucks purchased more than 1.6 million pounds of shade-grown coffee from Mexico and invested $200,000 in Conservation International’s Conservation Coffee program. In addition, the CEC’s shade-grown coffee initiative resulted in the development of ecological criteria for shade-grown coffee farming, which were incorporated into the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s “Bird Friendly” labeling system. The success of this work led to the involvement of some 700 farmers who received a 60-percent price premium over local prices and exported 50 percent more than the year before the program started.
The CEC launched a new initiative to protect birds and bird habitat across North America, especially along migratory routes that span the three countries. The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) allows a range of government agencies to coordinate conservation efforts with bird conservation groups, researchers and others. NABCI continues its efforts independently, following the successful launch of this initiative by the CEC, and the members continue to contribute directly to the CEC’s work by participating in steering committees for CEC projects, especially on trinational grasslands conservation.
The CEC releases a major study on crucial issues facing the North American environment: air and atmosphere, biodiversity and ecosystems, pollutants and water quality. Using major environmental indicators from all three countries, The North American Mosaic examined environmental trends in North America and studied possible threats, including the impacts of climate change, population growth, and disasters.
Through a North American Regional Action Plan, the three North American countries succeeded in virtually eliminating DDT from the environments of Canada, Mexico and the United States, marking one of the most outstanding achievements of the CEC’s Sound Management of Chemicals program. As part of a joint undertaking between the CEC and the Pan American Health Organization, and with support from the Global Environment Facility, Mexico has been sharing lessons learned with Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
The CEC released its Final Analytic Framework for Assessing the Environmental Effects of NAFTA. It was the subject of an extensive review throughout that year by the public, peers and the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee. Revisions to this framework led to the release in 1999 of the phase II document, Assessing Environmental Effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which encompassed the framework and methodology used by independent consultants for research, presented at a series of four CEC symposia held over the next several years, looking at the environmental effects of trade.
A principal responsibility of the CEC, as set forth in the NAAEC, is to study and report on the state of the North American environment. To begin this work, the CEC released its first study classifying the terrestrial ecoregions, Ecological Regions of North America: Toward a Common Perspective. This work would continue over the next 15 years, refining the ecoregional descriptions and mapping at greater levels of specificity and detail.
An independent Article 13 report was released, examining the long-range transport through the air of several persistent pollutants in North America that know no boundaries. The report, Continental Pollutant Pathways, recommended the three governments dedicate adequate funding to improve monitoring programs and work collaboratively to act as a global leader in addressing long-term and large-scale threats to regional environmental security. To date, the CEC’s Sound Management of Chemicals program and Pollutant Release and Transfer Registry program have provided consistent funding to improve pollutant monitoring capacity in all three countries, and have shared and collaborated globally including with several United Nations bodies and treaty organizations.
The North American Fund for Environmental Cooperation (NAFEC) was launched and CEC funded this grant program from 1996 to 2003. Over that period, NAFEC awarded 196 grants, totaling C$9.36 million. It supported innovative community-based projects that complemented the work of the CEC and promoted the goals and objectives of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. NAFEC grants had concrete results at the local level as well as outcomes that could be shared as models throughout North America.
NAFTA was the first Free Trade Agreement to link free trade with obligations to protect the environment when it was signed and its side accord, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), came into force, creating the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). Aside from their importance in catalyzing environmental work between the NAFTA Parties, the CEC and the NAAEC remain influential as a source of experience and expertise in trade and environment issues at a global level.