North American Environment Officals Launch Air Pollutant Tracker

MORELIA, Michoacan, Mexico, June 27, 2007 (ENS) - The top environmental officials of Canada, Mexico and the United States today announced new collaborative environmental initiatives on tracking air pollution in North America. The three countries introduced an interactive Google Earth mapping tool, which will expand public access to information on air pollutants.

The officials were gathered in Morelia, for the regular annual meeting of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, CEC, an organization created by Canada, Mexico and the United States to address regional environmental concerns as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA.

Host Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Mexican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson and John Baird, Canadian Environment Minister, for the day-long meeting.

North American environmental officials share a laugh after their meeting in Morelia, Mexico. From left: Canadian Environment Minister John Baird, Mexico's Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, and U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson (Photo courtesy CEC)
The talks focused on harmonizing air quality data between the three countries and strengthening Mexico’s pollutant monitoring and reporting ability.

"The CEC is an important catalyst for cooperative action in building a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable environment for future generations," said Administrator Johnson.

Secretary Elvira Quesada said, "The Morelia meeting has special importance since for the first time in the history of the CEC, the Council it made the decision to open the session to the presence of the public, including the mass media, in the role of observers."

During today's meeting, the Council agreed that the CEC should lead initiatives to promote green building throughout the continent, and should also help foster greater cooperation on air quality in North America.

Today, the three countries launched an interactive Google Earth mapping tool developed by the CEC, which will expand public access to information on pollutants at: http://www.cec.org/naatlas/prtr.

"This new tool creates a picture of industrial pollutant data across North America and, for the first time, allows anyone, whether in Manitoba, Mississippi, or Michoacán, to access the pollution profile of reporting industries across the continent or in their community," the officials explained.

The officials welcomed Mexico’s first publication of its register of industrial pollutant emission and transfer data, the Registro de Emisiones y Transferencia de Contaminantes.

"This marks the achievement of the first truly North American register of pollution releases and transfers, a milestone for environmental management and public access to information in each of our countries," they said in a joint statement.

Combined with comparable information from Canada and the United States, it amounts to the first North American register of pollution releases and chemical sales and shipments, "a milestone for environmental management and citizens' rights in North America," the officials said.

Environment Minister Baird said, "This work could set the stage for the development of a North American emissions trading regime, a move Canada supports."

Recognizing the priority the CEC has placed on "green" buildings and engaging with indigenous peoples, the three officials announced their support for the first North American Indigenous Environmental Health Assembly to be held in 2008 and for a workshop on developing a green building rating system in Mexico.

For biodiversity conservation, the officials formally expressed their support for initiatives to conserve the monarch butterfly and the vaquita porpoise.

Starting today, Canada will assume the chair of the CEC for one year.

"We are all partners in caring for this continent," Baird said. "We share a lot of responsibility. So, it is important that we work together to protect the North American environment."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.