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Environmental Standards and the Export Development Corporation of Canada

Environmental Assessment, Trade
Nowlan, Linda

The Export Development Corporation of Canada (EDC) is a publicly financed Crown Corporation with a mandate to promote Canadian exports. Though projects supported by the EDC have major environmental impacts, the EDC is not bound by law to conduct environmental impact assessments, or to consider environmental factors in its decisionmaking process. Other similar agencies, notably those in the U.S., do have legal requirements to follow environmental standards and conduct impact assessments.

A voluntary Environmental Review Framework was produced by the EDC in May 1999. It is an important step forward, but could be strengthened. This brief evaluates the Framework and concludes that it does not meet basic criteria for sustainability, such as a categorical list of projects that will not be supported, a comprehensive list of environmental factors to be considered during the review process, disclosure requirements, public participation provisions, and an independent review mechanism. The Review Framework should be strengthened by including these criteria. In addition WCEL advocates requiring the EDC by statute to abide by environmental standards, by:

  • amending the Export Development Act to require incorporation of environmental factors in decisionmaking,
  • requiring environmental impact assessments of EDC’s decisions to be conducted pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and
  • requiring the Export Development Corporation to prepare a sustainable development strategy and report to the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development, pursuant to the Auditor General of Canada Act.

…(F)rom a global perspective the environment has continued to degrade during the past decades and significant environmental problems remain deeply embedded in the socio-economic fabric of nations in all regions. Progress towards a global sustainable future is just too slow. A sense of urgency is lacking…The recognition of environmental issues as necessarily long-term and cumulative, with serious global and security implications remains limited. The reconciliation of environment and trade regimes in a fair and equitable manner still remains a major challenge."

- UNEP, Global Environmental Outlook, 1997

"We will do more to encourage private investment to meet environmental standards. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation will now require that its projects adhere to new and strengthened environmental guidelines just as our Import-Export Bank already does, and as I hope our allies and friends soon will. Common guidelines for responsible investment clearly would lead to more sustainable growth in developing nations."

- US President Clinton, 1997, UN General Assembly Special Session Statement

Publication Date: 
September 1, 1999
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