Seeking Green Normal with the CEC
by Brian Libby
With a total population of over 400 million, North America is the largest free-trade zone in the world, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement approved by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1994. When NAFTA was finalized, the three governments also agreed on a side accord, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, in order to address concerns about unequal environmental regulations in the three countries.
That side agreement created the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), based in Montreal, which works to address regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, and promote the effective enforcement of environmental law.
To examine the status of "green" building in North America, as well as some of the drivers and barriers to its development, the CEC held a two-day conference in May in Seattle, Washington, to initiate a report titled "Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges."
Commercial and residential buildings in the United States consume some 65 percent of electricity generated, according to the CEC (while other sources rate this as high as 76 percent), as well as 12 percent of fresh water supplies and about 40 percent of all raw materials. These buildings also account for about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Yet green building, one of the most effective antidotes to America's energy-hog ways, represents only a small fraction of the new construction in North America: about five percent in 2006, which is projected to possibly rise as high as ten percent by 2010.
"In small changes in our lives, we can make a great difference," said Adrian Vasquez, the CEC's executive director. "But we're also talking about how to make green building the norm."
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