Canadian-U.S. Environmental Cooperation: Climate Change Networks and Regional Action

By Selin, Henrik; Vandeveer, Stacy D. | American Review of Canadian Studies, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Canadian-U.S. Environmental Cooperation: Climate Change Networks and Regional Action


Selin, Henrik, Vandeveer, Stacy D., American Review of Canadian Studies


Introduction (1)

Canadian-U.S. environmental relations manifest a growing importance of transborder state and provincial cooperation and policy-making. (2) This trend is clear in North American climate change action. Though the Canadian and American federal governments have adopted diverging positions on climate change policy, extensive sub-national climate change action across the Canadian-U.S. border is developing in northeast North America. In this region, Canadian provinces and U.S. states forge ahead with climate change action beyond requirements mandated by their federal governments. (3) This collective effort includes the six New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) and five Eastern Canadian provinces (Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Quebec).

Under the joint Climate Change Action Plan, adopted by the New England Governors (NEG) and the Eastern Canadian Premiers (ECP) in August 2001, participating provinces and states commit to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. (4) The provinces and states moreover pledge to ultimately decrease GHG emissions to levels that do not pose a threat to the climate, which according to an official estimate would require a 75-85 percent reduction from 2001 emission levels. (5) Since 2001, state and provincial officials have worked to develop and implement more detailed provincial and state level policies and programs and built public-private partnerships in support of the regional plan and goals.

This article draws insights from the literatures on regionalism and networks to examine growing Canadian provincial and U.S. state level environmental cooperation with a case study of the regional NEG-ECP climate change action. The authors attended multiple regional meetings and workshops with public, private, and civil society participants, conducted a large series of semi-structured and open-ended interviews with stakeholders and experts, and reviewed a multitude of climate change documents and reports. We begin by discussing central aspects of regionalism and networks as tools for analyzing NEG-ECP policy-making and implementation. Next, we examine regional NEG-ECP climate change policy and implementation and discuss potential avenues through which developments in northeast North America may influence national climate change debates in the U.S. and Canada.

Regionalism and Networks

The two concepts of regionalism and networks offer an opportunity to critically examine central aspects and drivers of developing NEG-ECP climate change action. Traditionally, social science scholars have relied primarily on a combination of geography, administrative designations, and economic factors such as trade patterns, currency use, and/or capital or labor flows to define regions. (6) In contrast, "new regionalism" scholarship focuses on more complex combinations of political, economic, social, and cultural factors to define regions, stressing the social construction of regions. (7) This new regionalism includes interactions among "(1) ideas and their ties to institutions, (2) systems of production, (3) labor supply, and (4) sociocultural institutions, all undergirded by power relations." (8)

If one views regions as complex social constructs that are often based on a multitude of factors, a "region" and "regionalism" can occur at various scales, from the macro-level to the micro-level. There can, moreover, be smaller regions within a larger region. For example, "North America" denotes a large commonly recognized continental scale region while it simultaneously incorporates geographically smaller regional areas with which many people identify, such as "New England" and the Canadian "Maritimes." In addition, regions vary greatly in the extent to which their constituting interactions involve shared decision making organizations, identities, traditions, civil societies, and so on. …

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