SUNS #5182 Thursday 15 August 2002 <http://www.sunsonline.org>
Canada and US go 'green'
at world's expense, says report
New York, 13 Aug (IPS/Haider Rizvi) -- A new UN study
urges the United States and Canada to take more
responsibility for the damage they have done to the
world's natural resources and climate in the past 30
The two countries' success in improving local environments
- where their people live with clean water and air and
enjoy green spaces - has come at the expense of global
resources and climate, says 'North America's Environment:
A 30-Year State of the Environment and Policy
Retrospective', released Tuesday.
The report points out that each Canadian and American
consumes nine times more gasoline than any other person in
the world. With only 5% of the world's population, the two
countries generate more than 25% of global emissions of
heat-causing carbon dioxide.
The study was carried out by the UN Environment Programme
(UNEP) in collaboration with the World Resources Institute
(WRI), a Washington-based environmental think-tank, the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of the
North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.
"While Canada and the US have had notable success in
resolving a lot of environmental problems, progress has
been slowed down due to increasing consumption by their
growing population," says Brennan Van Dyke, one of the
authors of the report and UNEP regional director.
In the past 30 years, the two countries have not only
succeeded in stabilising desertification and reducing
toxic wastes discharged into the Great Lakes - the world's
largest freshwater system - but also made considerable
efforts to protect their wetlands, the study says.
Both countries have also preserved more than 11% of their
land areas as national parks and other protected areas.
Noting that in the past two decades the US reduced its
sulphur dioxide emissions by more than 30%, the report
says that both countries have nearly stopped using
non-essential chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), which marks a
significant shift towards protecting the ozone layer.
But the report notes that Canada and the US still face
"serious challenges before North America is on a
sustainable development path". For example, both countries
continue to face soil degradation and wetland losses.
The report urges the two countries to adopt policies that
promote sustainable patterns of production and
consumption, a theme of the upcoming World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD), which opens in
Johannesburg, South Africa, later this month.
The report's authors also say that both countries must
make "substantial and concrete changes" in the way they
use automobiles, relying on more fuel-efficient
technologies. Urban development strategies need to be
revamped to stem the overgrowth of cities, they add. UNEP
researchers estimate that the US transportation sector
accounts for more than one-third of the energy consumed by
the entire world.
Effective reforms are possible with the right policies and
the political will to implement them, the authors argue.
"The US is a leader in environmental policy design and can
support others in improving the environment and economy,"
says Paul Faeth, vice president of WSI. "The US
contribution to environmental problems is
disproportionately large. We owe it [to] the rest of the
world to be leaders, not laggards in this critical arena."