Introduction to Climate Change

5. The North American Approach

No country on the planet receives as high a proportion of acidic deposition from another country as Canada receives from the United States-approximately one half the total amount of acid deposition that falls on Canada comes from the United States. In return, Canada accounts for about 20% of the acid deposition in the United States. With passage of the 1990 U.S. Clean Air Act Amendments, however, the United States finally agreed to taking substantial steps toward reductions of SO2 and NOx, clearing the way for a bilateral agreement with Canada.
The 1991 U.S.-Canada Bilateral Air Quality Agreement, reprinted in 30 I.L.M. 676 (1991), outlines the joint efforts to control SO2 and NOx. The agreement requires each Party to accept specific emission reduction objectives and establishes several procedural and institutional mechanisms for future cooperation. Under Article IV: "Each Party shall establish specific objectives, which it undertakes to achieve, for emissions limitations or reductions of such air pollutants as the Parties agree to address."

The 1991 agreement also built on the long history of cooperation between Canada and the United States, relying on the existing International Joint Commission (IJC) to provide an institutional structure for the active management of transboundary air issues. The IJC is a permanent bilateral commission originally established to address water quality issues along the U.S. Canada border. Created under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC consists of three members from both countries.

The 1991 Bilateral Air Quality Agreement charged the IJC with oversight of a permanent, bilateral Air Quality Committee, thus institutionalizing bilateral cooperation regarding air pollution. The critical role of the Air Quality Committee is to report on the progress of the parties in meeting specific objectives of the Agreement.

Back