Environmental issues and developments in
North America included climate change, forest fires and biodiversity
Reporting on the environment using indicators was also prominent,
with the release of indicator reports which describe and trace trends
in various aspects of the environment and sustainability in Canada and
the United States (Box 1).
Box 1: Sustainability reporting gains
Environment and sustainability reporting is gaining momentum
in North America, and 2003 witnessed the launch of two landmark
products: the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)
Draft report on the environment and the Canadian National Round
Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), Environment
and sustainable development indicators for Canada report. Both
are part of
long-term reporting initiatives aimed at strengthening the information
base for environment and sustainable development policy-making.
In the US, the draft report, billed as the EPA’s ‘first-ever
national picture of the US environment’, was the long-awaited
first product of a federal-level Environmental Indicators Initiative.
It drew considerable attention both because of the void it filled
and due to the omission of climate issues. Related work (the high
profile 2002 State of the Nation’s Ecosystems project) by
The Heinz Center preceded this EPA effort and contributed to raising
awareness about the ‘environmental information gap’.
Environment and sustainable development indicators for Canada
is the final report of the Canadian NRTEE’s Environment
and Sustainable Development Indicators Initiative. This was a
three-year ‘multistakeholder program aimed at developing
a small set of credible and understandable indicators to track
whether Canada’s current economic activities threaten the
way of life for future generations’. One of the recommendations
of the report is that the System of National Accounts be expanded
include measures of natural, human and social capital.
|Sources: Heinz Center 2002, NRTEE 2002, US EPA 2003a
- The consumption of chlorofluourocarbons (CFCs), which deplete
the ozone layer, has been reduced to nearly zero in North America.
- Emissions that cause acid rain have been reduced with trides
made in controlling point source emissions of principal pollutants.
- Wetland loss in North America is slowing down and the land
set aside for protected areas has increased by about 3.5 per
cent since 1990.
Both Canada and the United States:
- place a high priority on deepening the understanding of the
linkages between human health and environmental issues, whether
it be air quality, the sound management of chemicals or contamination
of fresh water supplies;
- are at the forefront of research to address climate change.
Canada has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and has launched several
programmes to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US announced
a new climate change strategy in 2003, which sets out a voluntary
programme to reduce greenhouse gas intensity;
- with Mexico, have agreed to a North American strategy for
biodiversity conservation, under the auspices of the Commission
for Environmental Cooperation; and
- consider scientific research a high priority and a foundation
for policy, and are actively seeking to improve environmental
indicators. Both promote pollutant release inventories, and
the provision of environmental information to the public.
|Sources: CEC 2003, Environment Canada 2003a,
Heinz Center 2002, Natural Resources Canada 2003, UNEP-WCMC 2003