Rising concern about environmental conservation and preservation has led to increasing number of environmental policies at both national and international levels. These policies aim at environmental issues such as waste management, climate change, preservation of species, forest conservation and many others. Parties drafting trade agreements have also embraced the use of environmental policies in their agreements, a trend that has been on the rise in different parts of the world. Canada and the US have notably environmental clauses in their trade agreements than any other country in the world. According to a report by Policy Options, trade agreements are often more damaging to the environment due to their focus on profitability for the parties and disregard for the environmental impacts of their activities. However, the inclusion of environmental clauses in these agreements allows the government to monitor environmental impacts and response measures taken by trade parties.
Canada Increases Provisions
According to the report, more trade agreements in Canada started including environmental clauses since the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the US. The report indicated a marked increase in the number of environmental provisions included per trade agreements. Some of the provisions cover aspects of environmental law policies, national environmental protection standards, public participation in environmental governance, environmental standards concerning dispute resolution, a reference to multilateral agreements on the environment, consistency with non-environmental issues, specific environmental issues, and other innovative clauses. Various Canadian agreements vary from one party to the other both in quantity and features.
The report further states that these agreements include the five features embraced in NAFTA including upholding, maintaining, and improving national environmental protection standards. This feature prohibits any party from lowering these national standards for economic gain. The second unique feature of Canadian trade agreements provides for legal and political means of conflict resolution, for example, reporting noncompliance with environmental laws to relevant authorities.
A Call For Transparency
Canadian trade agreements and their environmental clauses embrace and encourage the participation of the public and environmental aspects to enhance transparency in the protection of the environment. By involving the public as well as environmental experts, parties of trade agreements become more accountable and capable of developing more effective environmental measures. These agreements also protect the regulatory sovereignty of parties of the agreement and finally an incompatibility provision. In the latter case, when the policies included in NAFTA are incompatible with multilateral agreements, then the multilateral agreements on the environment will be considered.
Despite the already numerous environmental clauses, Canada still has more room for other innovations or inspirations from existing models. As trade agreements are developed, more principles from other regions such as Europe and Asia have been embraced such as climate change clauses of the European model and the Nagoya Protocol.