NAFTA Commission Calls for Conservation and Renewable Energy

NAFTA Commission Calls for Conservation and Renewable Energy

North American countries should develop a carbon emissions trading system and promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, according to a recent report issued by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The CEC was established by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in order to build cooperation in implementing the environmental accords included in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The report, "Environmental Challenges and Opportunities of the Evolving North American Electricity Market,” was developed by an advisory board of energy experts from Canada, Mexico, and the United States and examines opportunities for providing North Americans with an affordable and abundant supply of electricity without compromising environmental and health objectives.

In a series of recommendations that accompany the report, the advisory board calls for 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. It urges the NAFTA countries to promote the development and use of renewable energy through increased market-based incentives and funding. It also supports a carbon emissions trading system, in addition to a continent-wide trading systems for emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen.

In a response to the CEC report, EPA assistant adminstrator Judith Ayres said, “We believe that there are some important issues that warrant further qualification, analysis, and/or discussion. Most importantly, the report overestimates the future growth, continental-scale integration, and environmental impacts associated with the electricity sector.”

According to the report, power plants in North America 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 U.S., the electricity sector is responsible for 25% of emissions to air of nitrogen oxides, 70% of sulfur dioxide, 25% of mercury, and 35% of carbon dioxide.

The NAFTA governments project that, within the next decade, the demand for electricity will grow by 14% in Canada, 66% in Mexico, and 21% in the United States.

The report can be downloaded online.