Bob Weber / The Canadian Press & Michael Bastasch / The Daily Caller – 2014-06-10 01:00:11
NAFTA Panel Won’t Review Canada’s Polar Bear Policy
Bob Weber / The Canadian Press
MONTREAL (June 7, 2014)– An international trade panel has decided not to review whether Canada is enforcing its own environmental legislation to protect its polar bear population.
The Commission for Environmental Co-operation voted 2-1 to reject a request for an investigation into why Canada has chosen not to designate the bears as threatened or endangered. A US environmental group had filed a submission claiming that decision leaves the bears without protection, despite the ongoing loss of their sea-ice habitat and resulting projections of declining numbers.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” said Sarah Uhleman, lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the complaint. Uhleman pointed out the vote went against a recommendation from the commission’s experts, who said there were “open questions” about Canada’s polar bear policies. “A political decision rejected an expert’s recommendation.”
The commission was formed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement in an effort to ensure that open markets don’t put downward pressure on environmental legislation. Canada, the US and Mexico each have one vote. The US voted against Canada.
The centre had argued that Canada failed to use the best available science to evaluate risks to the bears and did not meet its own legal deadlines to enact protection for them.
Uhleman said the submission’s goal was both to restrict Canada’s ongoing polar bear hunt and put pressure on the Canadian government to improve its record on fighting climate change, which experts agree is the chief threat to the bear’s survival. “It’s about Canada recognizing that climate change is a really big threat to the polar bear and to the Arctic itself,” she said. “Canada is not doing particularly well in fighting climate change.”
The commission ruled that an investigation would simply republish information that was already public. It also declined to second-guess policy decisions made by the Canadian government.
“Certain issues the (experts) deemed to be ‘central open questions’ are aimed at seeking details on protected government decision-making processes and cabinet deliberations, which is not permitted under â€¦ the agreement,” the decision says.
Canada’s polar bear policies have come under fire from the international community before. The United States has twice tried to convince a group responsible for monitoring and controlling trade in endangered species that Canadian polar bear products such as hides should come under the same restricted category as elephant ivory.
Canada has won both of those votes, but by narrowing margins.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq has said Canada has strong polar bear management based on both western science and traditional knowledge. Populations are co-managed together with aboriginal communities under the terms of land-claim agreements.
Canada Won’t List Polar Bears On Its Endangered Species List
Michael Bastasch / The Daily Caller
(June 9, 2014) — Canada won’t be listing polar bears as “threatened” or “endangered” on the country’s endangered species list any time soon, according to an international trade panel.
Environmentalists have tried to use the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to get the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) to investigate into why Canada has not listed polar bears as threatened or endangered species.
CBC News reported last week that CEC voted 2 to 1 to reject a filing by the Center for Biological Diversity, which claimed Canada was not doing enough to protect its polar bear populations from global warming.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” Sarah Uhleman, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, told CBC News. “A political decision rejected an expert’s recommendation.”
CEC was established under NAFTA to ensure that free trade does not impede environmental regulations. The US, Canada and Mexico each have one vote on the commission — and the US was the only country to vote in favor of investigating Canada.
“It’s about Canada recognizing that climate change is a really big threat to the polar bear and to the Arctic itself,” Uhleman said. “Canada is not doing particularly well in fighting climate change.”
The polar bear became the first species to be listed as “threatened” in the US due to the potential impacts global warming would have on the Arctic, such as melting sea ice.
But fears that polar bear populations are in danger from melting sea ice have been overblown. Official polar bear population estimates have been underestimated, according to zoologist Susan Crockford.
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