EPA, SEMARNAT Sign Joint Environmental Protection ProgramBy Rodrigo Brugada | Tue, 06/01/2021 - 16:58
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) recently announced the signing of the US-Mexico Environmental Program: Border 2025. The program seeks to advance the binational commitments to protect the environment and public health along the US-Mexico border.
The US-Mexico Environmental Program: Border 2025 is a five-year (2021-2025) binational effort designed to “Protect the environment and public health in the US-Mexico border region for the long-term economic, cultural and social well-being of present and future generations, and acknowledge the importance of engaging with these groups in the long-term conservation of the environment,” explains EPA. The border area’s population growth is expected to double over the next 20 years, fueled in part by dramatic industrial growth. This would mean serious challenges concerning water availability, waste management and air pollution.
The program is a follow-up on a historical record of binational cooperation in this matter. It has its roots in the La Paz Agreement, which both countries signed in 1983 in Baja California Sur. In this agreement, both countries recognized the need to address environmental and health challenges and work jointly to support the environment and public health. The program evolved to accommodate changing border priorities and now it includes four strategic goals.
The first one is to reduce air pollution through, among other actions, the establishment of air monitoring networks that provide real-time air quality data to be shared across the border and among stakeholders. It also involves deploying strategies and technologies to reduce pollutant emissions and improve public health outcomes.
The second one is to improve water quality through better management of hydric resources and infrastructure, implementing projects to prevent and reduce trash and sediment and improving access to water quality data.
The third one concerns materials and waste management to ensure clean sites. This is to be accomplished by identifying priority waste streams, developing sustainable materials management and improving solid waste disposal site operations.
The last goal is to improve joint preparedness to hazardous environmental emergencies through training and to implement sound protocols for a swift response. A vital aspect of the program is that it is meant to actively involve local communities and encourage meaningful participation from local stakeholders, paying particular attention to historically neglected communities such as those of indigenous or African descent.
The program’s guiding principles reflect these considerations and aim to contribute to the environmental health and well-being of the US-Mexico border population. Its principles are:
- Preserve the natural environment and reduce public health risks.
- Embrace a bottom-up approach for prioritizing areas of engagement.
- Develop and deploy new climate-friendly strategies and solutions.
- Prioritize environmental equity and address disproportionate environmental impacts in border communities.
- Foster transparency, public participation and open dialogue by providing accessible, accurate and timely information.
- Achieve concrete, measurable and sustainable results while maintaining a long-term vision.
- Recognize that one of the best ways to achieve sustainable economic development of the border region is to promote mutually supportive trade and environmental policies and practices.
- Promote a high level of environmental protection through effective compliance and enforcement.
- Cooperate closely in regulation and policy development.
- Acknowledge that the environment plays an essential role in indigenous people and local communities’ economic, social and cultural well-being.
- Recognize US Tribal Governments as sovereign entities and that historic equity issues must be addressed.
- Recognize indigenous peoples and Afro-Mexicans communities as part of a pluricultural nation and as defenders of collective memory and biocultural heritage, while protecting and preserving their cultural integrity within the broader environmental purposes of this program.