New England states, eastern provinces review progress on shared environmental issues
In a joint resolution on the environment, leaders of Canada's eastern provinces and New England states recently called for the development of a cost-effective, low-sulfur regional heating oil strategy, aimed at reducing the environmental and public health effects associated with commercial and residential space heating. The resolution also approved continued aggressive implementation of a regional mercury action plan to meet the specified 75% reduction target for the region.
At its 29th annual meeting, in St John's, Newfoundland, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP) further approved changing the name of its Acid Rain Steering Committee to the Acid Rain and Air Quality Steering Committee, to better reflect this group's focus. The NEG/ECP accepted the report and work plan of its Climate Change Steering Committee and directed it to finalize its plan for meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2010 established by the Conference.
As part of the environment resolution as well, the NEG/ECP indicated its support for the development, by international committees on energy and on environment, of a region-wide energy efficiency and renewable energy strategy, to be presented at the next annual meeting.
Addressing matters related to oceans and the marine environment, the Premiers and Governors committed Canada's collaboration with a U.S. Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) through the NEG/ECP. They agreed to establish an Oceans Working Committee, consisting of NROC and appropriate representatives from the five eastern Canadian provinces. This group will fulfill a number of tasks relating to co-operation on all aspects of oceans management, including addressing relevant environmental issues such as major oil spills, ports of refuge, invasive species and the deliberate dumping of bilge oil at sea.
During the year, the NEG/ECP convenes meetings of state and provincial officials, organizes roundtables and workshops, and prepares reports and studies of issues of regional import. It meets each year at the end of August to review the results of its various committees' work and to formulate plans and resolutions for the coming year.
Since its creation in 1973, the NEG/ECP has grown to become a forceful advocate of environmental issues and sustainable development. It has also recorded substantial achievements such as: expanding economic ties among the states and provinces; fostering region-wide energy exchanges; and co-ordinating numerous policies and programs in such areas as transportation, forest management, tourism, small-scale agriculture, and fisheries.
This year's annual meeting was co-chaired by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams and Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri. Governor Carcieri will host the 30th Annual Conference in 2006 in Newport, Rhode Island.
Among the highlights of the NEG/ECP's work in recent years has been the development of a regional Climate Change Action Plan. In August 2001, the Premiers and Governors committed the region to the following goals:
*reduction of regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2010;
*reduction of regional GHG emissions by at least 10% below 1990 levels by 2020; and
*reduction of regional GHG emissions by 75-85% in the long-term.
During the annual meeting, a coalition of Canadian and U.S. environmental groups presented their second annual assessment of the region's progress toward meeting the NEG/ECP Action Plan's targets. The 2005 Report Card on Climate Change Action reveals considerable variation among the states and provinces regarding actions to reduce GHG emissions. Jurisdictions that are strong in some areas are weak in others. As a result, concludes the report, although some progress has been made, the region is not yet on a trajectory to meet the short-term goals set out in its plan.
In particular, states and provinces need to focus on reducing emissions from the largest sectoral sources, notably, transportation and power generation. For example, says the report, governments should explore policy options that will increase the percentage of low-emission and fuel-efficient vehicles in use. More effective strategies and stronger incentives are also needed to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled. This can be accomplished through measures such as improved and expanded public transportation systems and comprehensive regional planning focused on reducing urban sprawl.
To achieve the goal of reducing GHG emissions from the power sector, the report urges the region's governments to improve the electricity generation fuel mix to include a much higher proportion of clean, renewable energy sources as well as lower-carbon fuels. Sound energy policies in all jurisdictions, it adds, should be based on energy efficiency and conservation, together with measures to reduce energy demand.
The report card grades the states and provinces in terms of their progress in carrying out eight specific steps called for in the Action Plan. Among these are: establishing a regional standardized GHG emissions inventory; establishing a plan for reducing GHG emissions and conserving energy; promoting public awareness; decreasing GHG emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors; and creating a regional emissions registry and exploring a trading mechanism.
Of all the region's jurisdictions, Prince Edward Island received the highest grade, a B+ (up from B- last year), with improved grades recorded for Newfoundland and Labrador (B, up from C-) and New Brunswick (C+, up from C-). Quebec and Nova Scotia's grades remained the same, at B- and C-, respectively. For each jurisdiction, the report card outlines specific achievements and areas where improvements are needed.
The 2005 Report Card may be viewed on-line at www.conservationcouncil.ca or www.newenglandclimate.org. The NEG/ECP Climate Action Plan is available on the Web sites of the Council of Atlantic Premiers, www.cap-cpma.ca, or the New England Governors Council, www.negc.org.