A side agreement in the NAFTA package mandated the creation of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The CEC’s secretariat is based in Montreal, making the city the ideal location for this symposium. Former CEC executive director William Kennedy, now an affiliate professor in Concordia's Department of Geography, Planning and Environment and Associate Member of LSRC, helped connect the symposium organizers with the CEC.
The conference will have three different sessions regarding continental environmental governance and cooperation: energy, ecosystem services and the functioning of the CEC.
The proposed Canada-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline issue demonstrates the integrated nature of the continental energy market, and the debate over fracking is another vivid reminder of the environmental stakes in energy policy. Alternative energy sources, Stoett notes, "do not yet have as much integration, but it's a growth area."
Water, biodiversity and conservation all fall under this category. "That's a phrase biologists use for the things the environment provides for humankind,” says Stoett.
In the afternoon session, participants will address issues such as management of the Great Lakes, efforts to protect migratory species that touch all three North American countries, such as the monarch butterfly and the gravy whale, and the management of invasive species such as the Asian carp now found in the Great Lakes.
Future of environmental governance and public participation, in the NAFTA context
When NAFTA was being negotiated, public concern about collateral damage to the continental environment led to the side agreement to create the CEC.
One major role for the CEC is to open a channel for "public participation" — to provide a way for citizens and NGOs in the three countries to object formally to environmental damage stemming from expanded trade. The CEC evaluates complaints and can investigate the issues raised and can report back to governments. This public session features two round-table discussions, on the CEC's role and the future governance of environmental matters.
Among those expected to attend are Irasema Coronado, executive director of the CEC; Scott Vaughan, Canada’s former environment and sustainable development commissioner and current president and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development; and Graham Carr, Concordia's vice-president for Research and Graduate Studies.
Observers from CAFTA-DR, a trade pact among the Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and the U.S., will be present. CAFTA-DR officials are "working on a citizen-submission mechanism of their own," Stoett says, and hope to learn from the NAFTA experience.
Do conferences like this make a difference? The formal bureaucracy and data-gathering challenges of environmental monitoring and governance can be intimidating, Stoett acknowledges.
Still, he says, "I wouldn't want to live in a world where we didn't strive to have an impact. It would be worse if there were no effort to use the rule of law.
”The day-to-day stuff that matters is not being done by bickering governments but at the local level, and transnational networks of scientists and NGOs work with that. Slowly but surely, we're making some advances."
The public morning session is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and run until noon on Tuesday, February 17, in room H-767 of the Henry F. Hall Building (H). No prior registration is required.
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