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Media Release

CEC examines the environmental impacts of a growing, continental electricity market.

Montreal, 17/06/2002 – A new report by the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) examines the environmental impacts of a growing, continental electricity market.

An expert advisory board drawn from Canada, Mexico, and the United States guided the report: Environmental Challenges and Opportunities of the Evolving North American Electricity Market. The board was asked how North Americans could have an affordable and abundant supply of electricity without compromising environmental and health objectives. And, in a series of recommendations that accompany the report, the board suggests how the NAFTA partners can cooperate to ensure the North American public receives the full economic and environmental benefits of an integrated continental electricity market.

The report was initiated by the CEC Secretariat to explore the environmental challenges and opportunities of the evolving North American electricity sector.

Power plants in North America, for example, reported the largest toxic releases in 1999 among all reporting industrial sectors-over 450,000 metric tonnes (500,000 short tons) of pollutants to air, land, and water. In the US, the electricity sector is responsible for 25 percent of emissions to air of nitrogen oxides, 70 percent of sulfur dioxide, 25 percent of mercury, and 35 percent of carbon dioxide. The NAFTA governments project the demand for electricity will grow by 14 percent in Canada, 66 per cent in Mexico, and 21 percent in the United States from 2000 to 2009.

Because of these significant impacts, there is increasing focus on power projects planned near international borders that can affect the well-being of the public and the environment in neighboring countries.

The Honorable Philip Sharp, a senior research fellow at Harvard University and a ten-term former member of the US Congress, chaired the advisory board that guided this study and arrived at a series of consensus recommendations to the heads of the federal environmental agencies in the three NAFTA countries.

While the advisory board recognizes an integrated North American electricity market means potential benefits in terms of affordable and reliable power, it calls upon NAFTA partners to support:

  • Safety nets to protect human and ecosystem health in North America as the electricity market integrates;
  • Greater public access to improved information on pollutants emitted by power plants, facility siting criteria, and differences in cross-border environmental standards;
  • Greater North American cooperation in assessing the environmental impacts on air, land and water from new power plants, both locally and from the long-range transport of air pollution;
  • A framework for a North American air emissions trading regime for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides-two pollutants contributing to acid rain and smog; and
  • Development of a carbon emissions trading regime to address climate change and promote forest conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

The advisory board urges the NAFTA countries to promote the development and use of renewable energy through increased market-based incentives and funding. Conservation and energy efficiency initiatives, it notes, also need supportive policies and incentives to help address electricity supply considerations in an environmentally sound manner.

To accomplish these goals, the advisory board recommends the creation of a North American fund to promote the adoption of best available control technologies, energy efficiency measures, and energy conservation within the NAFTA countries.

The report is a product of the Secretariat of the CEC prepared under Article 13 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, and is not intended to reflect the views of the Parties to that agreement. As such, the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States have made comments on the report and its findings. To view these comments in full, and to access the report and associated working papers, see http://www.cec.org.

The CEC was established by Canada, Mexico and the United States to build cooperation among the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) partners in implementing NAAEC, the environmental side accord to NAFTA. The CEC addresses environmental issues of continental concern, with particular attention to the environmental challenges and opportunities presented by continent-wide free trade.

About the CEC

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was established in 1994 by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, a parallel environmental agreement to NAFTA. As of 2020, the CEC is recognized and maintained by the Environmental Cooperation Agreement, in parallel with the new Free Trade Agreement of North America. The CEC brings together a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public, Indigenous people, youth, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and the business sector, to seek solutions to protect North America’s shared environment while supporting sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations

The CEC is governed and funded equally by the Government of Canada through Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of the United States of Mexico through the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, and the Government of the United States of America through the Environmental Protection Agency.

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