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Towards an effective transboundary environmental impact assessment regime for North America Sussex, James Frank

Abstract

Threats to the ecological integrity of the biosphere increasingly involve complex cause and effect relationships that transcend political boundaries. Transboundary impacts have become a growing international concern as the scale of human influence on global ecosystems expands and international trade liberalization policies accelerate regional and global economic integration. These political-economic forces are paralleled by a growing recognition that efforts to protect important ecosystem functions often suffer from jurisdictional fragmentation, lack of international cooperation, and environmental management regimes that do not result in environmentally sustainable decision-making. Therefore, the increasing stress on global ecosystems demands more effective international environmental cooperation in order to protect the integrity of transboundary ecosystems and prevent environmental disputes from escalating into international conflicts. The purpose of this thesis is to examine practical and theoretical issues associated with improving the role of EIA as a means of promoting more effective environmental decision-making in multilateral and transboundary contexts. In particular, the analysis focuses on the emerging role of transboundary EIA in the context of North America's increasingly integrated regional economy. The need to develop a more effective North American transboundary EIA regime has become a more urgent policy consideration with the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Therefore, this thesis seeks to define how a conceptual model for transboundary EIA can be designed, based on a comprehensive and well-structured set of objectives, that will improve transboundary environmental decision making in North America. Toward this end, a conceptual model for effective transboundary EIA is developed based on information drawn from an extensive review of relevant literature and discussions with a variety of knowledgeable analysts. The conceptual model for transboundary EIA is then compared to the draft recommendations for transboundary EIA being developed pursuant to Article 10(7) of the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC - i.e., the environmental side agreement to NAFTA). Finally, general conclusions are presented with recommendations for further research and improving the effectiveness of a North American transboundary EIA regime.

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