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Statement to the Fourteenth Regular Session of the CEC Council

June 27 , 2007

Sierra Club of Canada's Atmosphere and Energy Campaigner, Emilie Moorhouse, was selected to make a presentation to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation's 14th Regular Session Council, held June 26-27th in Morelia, Michoacán , Mexico.

Secretario Quesada, Minister Baird, Administrator Johnston, and Chair Henriques.

CEC MeetingThank you for this opportunity to address the fourteenth Regular Session of the Council.  There are few opportunities such as this one for representatives of environmental organizations to communicate directly with the three Ministers and I thank you for your presence today.

I am here representing Sierra Club Canada, an independent national organization with members and offices across Canada. Today I will speak about the opportunities within North America to reduce air pollution, including greenhouse gases. 

Although NAFTA is an economic instrument, we have come to realize that our economy and the environment are inherently linked. I am sure we can all agree that a healthy environment is essential to sustaining a healthy economy and society, for current and future generations. 

Canadienses, Mexicanos y Estadounidenses estamos unidos en la preocupacion acerca de la calidad del aire que respiramos y de los potenciales impactos catastroficos que el cambio climatico puede dar origen en este continente y en todo el mundo. 

As you are well aware, North America is vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.  The IPCC’s fourth assessment report stated that North America has experienced locally severe economic damage, as well as substantial social and ecosystem disruption from recent weather–related extremes, including hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires. 

Predicted impacts on this continent of continued climate change include greater stresses on our already heavily utilized water resources, resulting in increased competition among agricultural, municipal, industrial and ecological uses.  Without strong action, hot temperatures and extreme weather are likely to cause more adverse health impacts including heat-related mortality, storm-related fatalities and injuries, and infectious diseases.

Climate change is perhaps humanity’s greatest environmental challenge, but it is also an enormous opportunity to move us towards an environmentally sustainable economy.  To do this we must reduce fossil fuel combustion. The technology exists today to reduce emissions; unfortunately North America is falling far behind other industrialized countries when it comes to deploying clean, renewable technologies. 

North America currently finds itself an entire generation behind Europe and Japan when it comes to fuel efficiency standards for cars. 

Canada has stated its intention to adopt a stringent, dominant North American standard.  A recent bill in the US Senate would see fuel efficiency in the US match in 2020, what it was in Europe in 2003.   We can and must do more.

Although the car industry strongly opposes new regulations, it must be recognized that they have a history of stubbornly resisting all regulations, from seatbelts, to bumpers, to catalytic converters, sometimes even to their own detriment.  

The truth is that economic impacts of regulations to reduce pollution and improve fuel efficiency have proven to be overwhelmingly positive and have maintained the competitiveness of this North American industry.

California standards currently lead the way in North America. The number of North American jurisdictions to adopt the California standard currently stands at 16.  Surely, it is time for the three federal governments to create an ambitious North American standard that aims for the best and is at least as stringent as California’s.

I would also like to take this opportunity remind each of the three countries of their engagements under the UN Convention on Climate Change, and urge the Canadian government to recommit to it’s Kyoto targets.

A majority of Canadians supports Canada’s Kyoto commitments, and expects strong action on climate change.  Unfortunately the government’s new regulations fall far short of what the science tells us is needed and have been overwhelmingly rejected by Canadians.  I therefore urge the Minister to strengthen Canada’s greenhouse gas targets.

I would also like to congratulate Mexico on its efforts to deploy renewable energies, and it’s national strategy on Climate change which represents an important step on behalf of a non-Annex B country in reducing emissions. 

Canada and the US should also create comprehensive national greenhouse gas reduction strategies to meet their international obligations under the Convention and the Kyoto protocol.

In order to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, industrialized countries such as Canada and the US must reduce emissions at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% by 2050.

Given its role to inform decision making, the CEC has an important and constructive role to play in helping North America fight climate change. As government’s move forward in regulating tailpipe emissions, the CEC is well placed to evaluate policy options which maximize fuel efficiency across the continent by taking into account the differences in vehicle fleets of our three countries. 

Another important contribution would be for the Council to provide the means for the CEC to conduct a Stern-like review for North America. Such a study would evaluate the economic impacts of unmitigated climate change to this continent, versus the costs of avoiding further climate change.

It’s time North America stopped dragging its feet in the fight to curb climate change. To date, Canada and the US have engaged in a race to the bottom. We can reverse this trend by engaging important institutions such as the CEC and pledging deep reductions in line with what the science says is needed and with each country’s historical responsibilities.

Thank you!


Sierra Club of Canada National Office