Issue 10, August 2009
US-Mexico relations are marked by shared environmental issues. In addition to being in competition for water supplies, Mexico and the US suffer from extreme environmental degradation on both sides of their border. The US Environmental Protection Agency has called air and water quality in the 14 metropolitan areas along the border “abysmal.” Overpopulation and poor planning has led to vast amounts of airborne pollution; water supplies are contaminated by industrial and agricultural (including chemical pesticide) waste; sewage treatment and disposal capacity is overburdened. Rapid development of border areas has also led to ecosystem damage.
The US and Mexico also share an interest in Mexico’s coastlines, which have largely been developed to attract American tourists and retirees. Seeing that these communities are sustainable in a warming world is of common benefit.
Few common mechanisms exist to address these environmental issues; the absence of NAFTA provisions on this issue has led to calls for the trade pact to be renegotiated. Many have called for the creation of a joint environmental fund as well as common emissions standards. Some of these concerns were aired at the recent Organization of American States (OAS) summit where Presidents Obama and Calderon signed a “US-Mexico Bilateral Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change.” The US is currently supporting Mexico’s bid to host the 2010 UN Conference on Climate Change.