North American Nations Aim for Greener Region

North American governments will consider ways to reduce vehicle emissions from cars at border checkpoints, like this one near San Diego.
North American governments will consider ways to reduce vehicle emissions from cars at border checkpoints, like this one near San Diego.

By Charlene Porter
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
July 12, 2013

Top environmental officials from Canada, Mexico and the United States agreed on an action plan July 11 to improve environmental standards in the transportation sector, act on climate change and improve air quality.

The actions emerged from a meeting of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), a continental alliance with an almost 20-year history of cooperation on these issues.

“We are announcing new initiatives to reduce emissions from trucks and buses, as well as from maritime transportation, especially at our borders and along our coasts,” said a ministerial statement issued by the CEC after a two-day meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico.

One initiative will assess vehicle emissions generated at border checkpoints as drivers travel between the nations and develop options for reducing pollution from that source. A second project will identify ways to accelerate the adoption of cleaner technologies in the bus and heavy-duty truck manufacturing sectors.

The top environmental officials from the three nations discussed the prospects for greener transportation in a webcast town hall meeting July 11 with participation from online audiences across the continent.

Canadian Minister of the Environment Peter Kent said the standards for fuel efficiency in his nation and the United States aim for a shared target in new vehicle manufacture. “A vehicle purchased in 2025 under the new standards, for example, will produce half as much emissions, and will consume half as much fuel.”

Both consumers and the quest for emissions reduction will benefit greatly from the stronger standard, Kent said. Aiming for shared regulatory standards across the continent makes good sense both environmentally and economically, he added.

The health benefits of cleaner air are also a good reason for a uniform North American vehicle emissions standard, said Bob Perciasepe, acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Millions of people in the three countries will have significant public health benefits,” Perciasepe said during the webcast, “including reduced asthma in children, [and] reduced premature deaths to cardiovascular disease.”

Since 2011, the CEC has been working on a project to improve the energy and environmental efficiency of the North American automotive industry supply chain. Its goals are a higher rate of use for recycled materials and lower emissions and fuel consumption.

The strong economic relationships among Canada, Mexico and the United States provide a foundation on which to build the framework for more sustainable practices. Already, the United States and Canada share the most integrated energy market in the world, with significant amounts of oil, natural gas and electricity flowing across their border.

The Los Cabos agreement also calls for further steps to establish a shared North American approach to controls for maritime emissions.

The CEC expressed further support for reducing black carbon emissions from various sources, collecting and sharing data on pollutants and promoting green building construction.