Canadians and Americans breathe the same air, drink the same water, and share the same responsibility to ensure that future generations have a safe, clean and healthy continent.
Stewardship of our shared environment is a key element of the Canada-U.S. relationship as our countries work together to anticipate and address environmental challenges.
Canada and the United States have at least 50 federal bilateral arrangements concerning the environment, and over 100 arrangements at the state and provincial level.
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Canada recognizes that climate change is a global challenge requiring a global solution, and is committed to tackling climate change through sustained action to build a low-carbon economy that includes reaching a global agreement, working with our North American partners, and taking action domestically.
The Government of Canada remains committed to contributing to the global effort by taking action to reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Copenhagen Accord, Canada has pledged to reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. Our target is consistent with the target proposed by the United States. Aligning our approach to climate change with that of the United States is critical given the close integration of our economies, our geographic proximity and our shared environmental space.
Canada is already taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Broader actions include increased use of biofuels; strengthening of energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings; investment in public transit, green infrastructure and carbon capture and storage; and building on our successful clean energy system through greater promotion of renewable energy like wind, solar and tidal power.
The Canadian and U.S. governments have announced common standards for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger automobiles and light trucks, and will continue to collaborate in implementing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. We will also continue to work with the United States through the Clean Energy Dialogue to enhance joint collaboration on the development of clean energy science and technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change.
Additional details about how the government will move forward with its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are available at Environment Canada’s website.
Aside from the coastlines that we share, more than 300 rivers and lakes (some of the largest in the world) lie along, or flow across, the border between Canada and the United States. Our two countries have a history of effective cooperation on water-related environmental issues.
The Boundary Waters Treaty (1909) set the pattern of joint stewardship of environmental resources by establishing principles and procedures for preventing or settling disputes including the creation of the International Joint Commission (IJC).
The IJC is an independent binational organization, created in recognition of the fact that each country is affected by the other’s actions along the border. More than 100 years later, Canada continues to protect both the quantity and the quality of boundary waters shared with the United States, including from the spread of invasive species such as Asian Carp and zebra mussels.
The IJC reviews and makes decisions on applications to build and operate projects in boundary waters that flow across the boundary. At the request of the two federal governments, the IJC examines and provides non-binding recommendations on transboundary issues. More information about the IJC is available on its website, www.ijc.org.
The Great Lakes are a shared resource that contains 84% of North America’s fresh surface water. The Great Lakes provide the foundation for billions of dollars in trade, shipping, manufacturing, fishing, forestry, agriculture, mining, energy and tourism. The Great Lakes are also a direct source of drinking water for millions of Canadian and American citizens in the basin.
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has been a key instrument for protecting water quality and the health of the aquatic ecosystem in the Great lakes for forty years. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement sets out common water quality objectives and commitments, and outlines provisions for the development of cooperative strategies and research. Pursuant to the Boundary Waters Treaty, the first Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was signed in 1972 and last amended in 1987. Following an extensive public review of the Agreement by the Governments of Canada and the United States beginning in 2006, it was determined that the Agreement should be updated to better respond to the range of complex issues that threaten Great Lakes water quality.
In June 2009, Canada and the United States committed to negotiating amendments to the Agreement. Formal negotiations began in January 2010, and were concluded in February 2012.
The amended Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which was signed by the Governments of Canada and the United States on September 7, 2012, entered into force on February 12, 2013, following an exchange of diplomatic notes between the two parties to formally ratify the Agreement.
With the Agreement now in force, Canada and the United States effectively "start the clock" on the implementation of the commitments within the Agreement. Please visit http://binational.net for more information on the Agreement and its implementation.
Canada has made a significant investment to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp. In fact, US$17.7 million (CAN$17.5 million) will be allocated over the next five years to four key activities: prevention, early warning, rapid response and management and control. As part of prevention activities, emphasis will be placed on initiatives to educate people about the danger of this invasive species and ways to prevent humans from bringing Asian carp into Canadian waters.
Canada and the United States share a long history of effective cooperation to improve air quality. Air pollution can be broadly defined as the presence in the air of any substance that can affect our health, the health of plants and animals, or causes damages to property and to our environment. These substances are in large part emitted by human activities but can also have natural origins. Air pollution is a North American problem that requires solutions on both sides of the border.
In 1991, Canada and the United States signed the Air Quality Agreement (AQA), which set specific air quality objectives and reductions in acid rain. Our shared desire to continue working together to improve air quality resulted in the signing of the Ozone Annex to the AQA in December 2000. By significantly reducing transboundary flows of the air pollutants that cause smog, the Annex benefits millions of people in central and eastern Canada, and north-eastern and Midwestern American states, as well as in Washington, DC.
A bilateral Air Quality Committee is responsible for coordinating the overall implementation of the AQA. Two subcommittees — Program Monitoring and Reporting and Scientific Cooperation — meet annually with the Air Quality Committee and carry out yearly activities. The two nations prepare a joint progress report every two years and conduct a regular five-year review of the Agreement.
Forests are divided into three categories — tropical, temperate and boreal. Boreal forests form a vast band of primarily coniferous forest encircling the upper portion of the northern hemisphere. They form the world’s largest land-based ecosystem, covering 11% of the earth’s surface, and act as a filter for fresh water, absorb CO2 to mitigate the effects of climate change, and provide habitat for hundreds of species. Canada has 30% of the global boreal forest in a band that stretches from coast to coast, and has more boreal forest that is formally protected than any other country. This is in addition to the fact that 93% of Canada’s forests are under public stewardship. A recent report by Canadian and American scientists indicates that the Canadian boreal forest holds 208 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 26 years of global carbon emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Canada has demonstrated a strong commitment to the sustainable management of this important resource. The area of certified forest in Canada is greater than the combined area of all other country certifications; representing almost 40% of the world’s certified forests. This third-party certification system complements Canada’s comprehensive and rigorous forest management laws and regulations. For more information on sustainable forest management in Canada:
Canada is committed to the sustainable management of our fisheries resources—as well as marine, coastal and freshwater environments—through conservation and sustainable resource practices.
Canada and the United States share many fish stocks that move back and forth across the boundary. In order to manage these valuable resources, Canada and the United States have worked to ensure cooperative stock management and enhancement through a comprehensive set of agreements (e.g. for Pacific salmon, halibut, tuna, hake and whiting).
Canada and the United States also work closely together to prevent illegal fishing and enforce compliance with international fishing agreements. The two countries work together through a number of multilateral fisheries organizations, including the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
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Sealing, a long tradition in Canada’s coastal communities, is a sustainable hunt managed using the framework of the precautionary approach, with quotas set annually based on peer-reviewed scientific advice. The current population of harp seals in Canada is an estimated 5.5 million—triple what it was in the early 1970s—and one million harp seals are born each year. The management of Canada’s seal hunt is supported by comprehensive regulations, monitoring and enforcement. Sealing may only be conducted using recognized humane methods recommended by the Independent Veterinarians’ Working Group.
The Porcupine caribou herd traditionally calves on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge in Alaska. There are continuing pressures to drill for oil and gas in this sensitive region. Canadian and U.S. indigenous peoples depend on the herd for subsistence and cultural needs. Canada would therefore prefer that the United States provide permanent protection to the area, as Canada has already done in critical portions of the herd’s range in this country. This is consistent with commitments made by both countries in the Canada-U.S. Agreement on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd (1987).
The Arctic Refuge in Alaska boasts one of the largest remaining complete ecosystems on the planet and is highly sensitive to any development. It has an array of arctic and subarctic habitats and hosts a wide variety of plants and animals. It is home to numerous bird species, Dall sheep, muskoxen, wolves, polar bears and grizzly bears. The biological heart of the Arctic Refuge is a narrow 1.5-million-acre (0.8-million-hectare) coastal plain, the so-called “1002 lands,” extending from the foothills of the Brooks Range some 25-30 kilometres to the edge of the Arctic Ocean.
The 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act called for the conservation of fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity and created, among other things, one of the largest wildlife refuges in the United States, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Arctic Refuge). The Arctic Refuge's 19 million acres (7.6 million hectares) are located in northeastern Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle and 1,300 miles (2,000 kilometres) south of the North Pole.
Of particular concern to Canada is the 169,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd, which migrates almost 400 miles (about 650 kilometres) each year from the Yukon to the coastal plain to calve and graze on the rich vegetation in preparation for winter. In fact, this narrow coastal plain is the principal calving area for the Caribou herd, with an average of 40,000 calves born there annually.
Also under threat is the livelihood of the Gwich’in people in Alaska and Canada, who have relied on the Porcupine caribou herd for some 12,000 years. Their traditional way of life is dependent upon the health of the Porcupine caribou herd. They hold the calving grounds to be sacred and are united in their desire to protect these sensitive areas. The protection of the Porcupine caribou herd and the possible effects on the Gwich’in people resulting from a deterioration of the herd’s number constitute both an environmental and a socio-economic concern to Canada. Because the herd’s migration route extends across the Canada-U.S. border, this concern also extends beyond the border to the calving grounds in Alaska.
In 1987, Canada and the United States signed the Agreement on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. The Agreement committed Canada and the United States to refrain from activities that would damage the herd. The Government of Canada has since reaffirmed this long-standing policy by, among other things, providing permanent wilderness status through the establishment of Ivvavik and Vuntut National Parks in northern Yukon. These parks provide permanent protection from development to the portion of the calving grounds located in the Yukon.
Canada maintains that these lands are of critical importance to the Porcupine caribou herd and to the Gwich'in people. Canada continues to urge the United States to provide the same permanent wilderness protection to its portion of the calving grounds as Canada provides to its part.
The goal of the SARA is to prevent species in Canada from becoming extirpated or extinct as a consequence of human activity. The loss of species affects us all and can have unforeseen consequences for our ecosystems. Throughout the world, species are becoming endangered at an alarming rate. There are currently 470 species classified as being at risk in Canada, and in a country as vast and diverse as ours, no one government can protect all species and their habitats by acting alone. Protecting species is a shared responsibility between federal, provincial and territorial governments and with all Canadians. Since 1996, federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions have been actively implementing the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.
The conservation of migratory birds is the joint responsibility of the countries they visit during the breeding, migration and non-breeding seasons. Recognition of this has led to the development of international treaties to protect these birds, such as the Canada-U.S. Migratory Birds Convention (1916), and to the formation of such mechanisms as the Canadian Wildlife Service’s Latin American Program, establishing linkages among countries who share migratory populations. It has also led to multi-partner programs to promote the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats, such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, Partners in Flight—U.S. (Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Program) and Partners in Flight—Canada (Canadian Landbird Conservation Program).
Canada’s first national park, Banff, was established in 1885 and the world’s first national park service, which later became Parks Canada, was established in 1911. Over the past decade Canada has increased the size of the national park system by almost 50%, amounting to nearly 86,000 sq mi of protected land and water with an additional 28,399 sq mi set aside for future parkland.
Canada’s national parks are established to protect and present outstanding representative examples of natural landscapes and phenomena that occur in Canada’s 39 natural regions. These wild places, located in all of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, range from mountains and plains, to boreal forests and tundra, to lakes and glaciers, and much more.
National parks in Canada are complemented by hundreds of provincial and territorial parks that afford additional protection. And the common cause in protecting our wild places is manifest in transboundary parks, such as Waterton- Glacier International Peace Park, shared by our countries. Canada’s parks conserve the habitat, wildlife and ecosystem diversity representative of — and sometimes unique to — these varied regions.
Canada and the United States are partners in the Roosevelt Campobello International Park on Campobello Island, New Brunswick. This international park, created by a treaty signed in 1964, is located on the summer home of former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is a testament to the close relationship between our two countries.
Canada and the United States also partner in the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, created in 1932. The Peace Park was originally created as a symbol of peace and goodwill between the United States and Canada, but has now evolved to also represent cooperation in a world of shared resources. Both parks strive to protect the ecosystem through shared management, not only between themselves, but also with their other neighbours.
On December 6, 1995 UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a World Heritage Site because it has a distinctive climate, physiographic setting, mountain-prairie interface, and tri-ocean hydrographical divide. It is an area of significant scenic values with abundant and diverse flora and fauna