The United States has stated its commitment to preserving the environment and keeping it free from pollution at the national as well as at the international level. In furtherance of its mission to preserve the environment, the United States has entered into several international treaties, agreements and conventions. Some of these treaties, agreements and conventions which address environmental issues at the international level are discussed below.
1. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement expresses the commitment of the United States and Canada to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. The agreement, which was signed in 1972 and later renewed in 1978, aims to abate pollution in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement requires the United States and Canada to be commitment to a maximum effort to reduce or eliminate the discharge of pollutants and to keep the waters free from:
- sewage discharges, oil and other debris;
- materials which adversely affect color, odor, taste or other conditions; and
- materials which produce toxic conditions or provide nutrients for the growth of algae which interfere with the beneficial uses of the Lakes.
2. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78): MARPOL 73/78 is one of the most important international marine environmental conventions. It is the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, and is the international treaty regulating disposal of wastes generated by normal operation of vessels. MARPOL 73/78 aims to minimize pollution of the seas, including dumping, oil and exhaust pollution. Its stated object is “to preserve the marine environment through the complete elimination of pollution by oil and other harmful substances and the minimization of accidental discharge of such substances.”
3. International Waste Agreements: The United States has entered into major international waste agreements with Canada, Mexico, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It has also entered into agreements with Costa Rica, Malaysia, and the Philippines. All these agreements between the United States and other countries are regarding the transboundary shipment of hazardous waste between these countries. The United States is also a signatory to the Basel Convention.
4. Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer: The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which is a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for depletion of the ozone layer. The treaty, which was opened for signature on September 16, 1987, and entered into force on January 1, 1989, was revised seven times. The Montreal Protocol sets out a mandatory timetable for the phase out of ozone depleting substances. It is believed that if the treaty is strictly adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover phase by phase. The Montreal Protocol has been hailed as the single most successful international agreement to date because of its widespread adoption and implementation by several nations.
5. North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (NACEC): The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation was entered between the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico to cooperatively work to conserve, protect and enhance the environment in their territories, and to ensure that no damage is caused to the environment. The aim of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation is to promote sustainable development based on cooperation and mutually supportive environmental and economic policies; increase cooperation between the three countries to better conserve, protect, and enhance the environment, including wild flora and fauna; support the environmental goals and objectives of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); strengthen cooperation on the development and improvement of environmental laws, regulations, procedures, policies and practices; enhance compliance with, and enforcement of, environmental laws and regulations; and promote economically efficient and effective environmental measures; and promote pollution prevention policies and practices.
6. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Technical Working Group (TWG) on Pesticides: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Technical Working Group (TWG) on Pesticides is a collaboration among the pesticides regulatory government agencies of the United States, Canada and Mexico. The primary objective of the group is to develop easier and less expensive pesticide regulation and trade among the three countries and meet the environmental, ecological, and human health objectives of NAFTA. The TWG partners address trade issues, national regulatory and scientific capacity, governmental review burden, and they coordinate regulatory decision making and industry burden reduction. The NAFTA TWG was established in 1997, to streamline certain pesticide shipments between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.