CEC hero image, a  photo of Array


The CEC is Turning 30! Celebrating Three Decades of Regional Environmental Cooperation

Montreal, 14 September 2023— Are you ready to celebrate—and accelerate? We’ve got big news! The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is turning thirty! This upcoming year we’ll be recognizing some of the key milestones in North American environmental cooperation and building on our history of collaboration to accelerate urgent action to address the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Thirty years ago today, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), a side agreement that entered into force alongside the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and created the CEC, received its final signature in Canada.

When the NAFTA and NAAEC agreements entered into force on 1 January 1994, it marked the first time that a free trade agreement enshrined obligations to protect the environment, promoting sustainable development, policies for pollution prevention and enhancing compliance with environmental laws and regulations.

The essence for successful regional cooperation was based on a collaborative approach, not only between the three countries, but also by working across agencies and sectors and through engaging countless organizations, communities and passionate individuals working in harmony as stewards of our environment. Through collaboration on shared priorities, we have been able to catalyze systemic change in North America and we will continue to strengthen our current partnerships and develop more in the future, continuously building a North American identity centered around our people as well as our shared environment, sustainability and environmental justice.

Are you curious about more aspects of North American environmental history? Here are a few snippets from three decades of environmental collaborative action:

  1. Have you ever wondered about the monarch butterfly in our logo? This regal species is not just charismatic—it’s the only butterfly known to complete annual bird-like migrations in North America. These continent-spanning migrations exemplify the oneness of our shared North American environment and demonstrate the importance of cross-border collaboration along the monarch’s migratory route. The monarch embodies one way that we are all connected through our ecosystems and points toward a need for coordinated policies and action with a regional mindset. The migratory monarch butterfly, though facing new and continued threats, endures as a symbol of the borderless, cross-cultural and timeless value of nature. You can read more about our 25 years of trilateral action to protect the monarch butterfly here.
  2. From the earliest days of the CEC, Canada, Mexico and the United States agreed to develop the world’s first matched set of trinational data on pollution releases and transfers. Our ongoing North American Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) Initiative began in 1996 and the first of our Taking Stock publications was released in July 1997. After the creation of a voluntary Mexican PRTR in 2002, shortly thereafter, and 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) pollutant release and transfer register. The creation of the mandatory RETC demonstrated the benefits of international cooperation in North America. The CEC’s Taking Stock report and online database continues to be an important tool for promoting public access to PRTR data to improve our understanding of the sources and management of pollutants of common concern, and can help identify best practices for priority greenhouse gas (such as methane) monitoring, reduction targets and actions.
  3. Last for this list, but certainly not least, in a major victory for human and environmental health, the CEC was instrumental in virtually eliminating the use of the nerve poison DDT—triumphantly proclaiming “DDT No Longer Used in North America” in September of 2003. After a North American Regional Action Plan was adopted in 1997, in just six years North America succeeded in almost entirely removing DDT from our shared environment, 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 also been sharing lessons learned with Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, demonstrating the powerful positive impacts of North American environmental leadership as a regional model of successful collaborative efforts.

For three decades, the CEC has been serving as an intergovernmental organization that is fit for purpose to address the most pressing environmental and climate issues of our lifetimes, taking action here in our region and creating a track record of leadership. Thirty years of experience have built the capacity, tools and expertise to tackle the current and future environmental challenges that we face.

With our greatest climate and environmental challenges directly ahead of us, now more than ever it is critical to accelerate solutions across the whole of society and harness the potential of ambitious trilateral action. As we reflect on thirty years of collaboration and recognize the networks and relationships established along the way, we’ll celebrate what we’ve all accomplished and learned together so that we can redouble our efforts to build the future we want.

As was recently reaffirmed, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is committed to recognizing and promoting the respect of Indigenous Peoples rights, including the right to self-determination, in environmental activities and decisions across North America and the world.

As we look ahead, we will continue to listen and apply the lessons learned from engaging across a diversity of North American experiences as we come together to face the challenges of the next 30 years and beyond.

During this upcoming year of celebrating and accelerating trilateral environmental action, stay tuned for information and opportunities to engage and participate and hear the voices of the people and partners who are driving trilateral environmental action in North America.

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The CEC is Turning 30!

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.

About the CEC video