FACT SHEET: APEC Leaders Commit to Protect the Environment
Protecting the environment is a top priority for the United States. President Obama has repeatedly stressed the importance of the environment as “front and center” in American diplomacy, trade, and economic policy. This commitment has been evident in the substantial steps taken by the United States to protect the global environment for example, through our actions to reduce carbon pollution under the Climate Action Plan, to protect sensitive ecosystems such as in the vast Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and to support the development of new technologies that can promote economic prosperity while improving environmental performance. Most recently, the United States hosted the “Our Ocean” Conference, resulting in $1.8 billion in pledges from across the globe to conserve the ocean and mitigate climate change. The United States has also led the way in promoting free trade in environmental goods, which would contribute to environmental protection as well as economic growth.
With U.S. leadership, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum plays an important role in pursuing green and sustainable growth in the region. APEC has elevated initiatives and partnerships aimed at promoting environmental protection in a diverse set of areas including: addressing wildlife trafficking and illegal logging; sustainable management of ocean and coastal resources; energy efficiency and infrastructure for electric vehicles; responsible mining practices; chemical health and safety cooperation; and trade in environmental goods, and aviation emissions.
Trade for illegal wildlife products, such as tiger, pangolin, elephant ivory, and rhino horn, is worth billions of dollars in Asia alone and current trade is at a record high. Wildlife trafficking is increasingly perpetrated by well-armed, well-equipped, and well-organized networks of criminals whose actions promote corruption, threaten global peace and security, strengthens illicit trade routes, destabilizes economies and communities that depend on wildlife for their livelihoods, and contribute to the spread of disease. Earlier this year, President Obama issued a new National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking which establishes three strategic priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad; and strengthening partnerships to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.
APEC serves as a valuable forum to pursue efforts to combat this pernicious trade by tackling the demand side of the economic equation, shifting consumer purchasing patterns in tandem with bolstering law enforcement cooperation. Since 2012, APEC Leaders have committed to combating wildlife trafficking, and we are implementing that commitment. Through APEC, the United States recently partnered with Vietnam and the Asian Development Bank to support an APEC-wide workshop to build capacity within economies in the region to reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife. We plan to strengthen policies and legislative frameworks, enhance investigative and law enforcement cooperation, and further develop capacities for detecting, prosecuting and adjudicating wildlife-related crimes and related corruption through capacity building for law enforcement, customs, and judicial officials in 2015. The United States is also working with many of our APEC partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations to secure commitments to combat wildlife trafficking, enhance law enforcement cooperation, and effectively implement and enforce international species conservation commitments.
Illegal Logging and Associated Trade
Illegal logging and associated trade is a significant concern in the Asia-Pacific region and undermines legal trade in timber products. It also threatens biodiversity and sustainable management of forests for both economic development and climate change mitigation. In 2011, APEC established an Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade to strengthen and enhance APEC’s efforts to combat illegal logging and promote legal wood products trade. With U.S. leadership, the Experts Group is developing APEC policy guidelines on the scope of laws relevant to identifying illegal logging and associated trade. The United States is also seeking to ensure that the work of the APEC Experts Group complements and supports commitments we are seeking in the TPP agreement negotiations to combat illegal logging and associated trade.
The Pacific Ocean plays a vital role in promoting economic prosperity and serves as a conduit for 90 percent of world trade. APEC economies account for over 80 percent of global aquaculture production and more than 60 percent of capture fisheries production. APEC Ministers Responsible for Ocean-Related Issues met in August to discuss the establishment of a more integrated, sustainable, inclusive and mutually beneficial partnership through ocean cooperation among APEC members, in 4 priority areas: (1) coastal and marine ecosystem conservation and disaster resilience; (2) the role of the ocean on food security and food-related trade; (3) marine science, technology and innovation; and (4) Blue Economy.
In addition, the United States is working with our TPP partners to secure first-ever commitments in a trade agreement to combat illegal fishing and promote sustainable fisheries management practices across the region. The United States is also leading action-oriented, cross-fora projects and initiatives such as the formation of the Virtual Working Group on Marine Debris to target marine debris in the APEC region, and many other U.S.-led projects. We are also finalizing a draft of the Ocean and Fisheries Working Group (OFWG) Food Security Action Plan, leading a study on post-harvest loss in fisheries with the World Fish Organization, and leading a project on assessing the economic value of green infrastructure in coastal ecosystems for disaster risk resilience, among other examples.
APEC Ministers met in 2014 to discuss the significance of sustainable development in mining. They called on all APEC economies to take necessary domestic measures to meet the requirements of the Convention. The Minamata Convention on Mercury has implications for the protection of human health and the environment, as it calls for parties to control and reduce mercury emissions to the air from a number of industrial sources, reduce or eliminate the use of mercury in certain products and industrial processes as well as in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), and reduce the supply of mercury. The ministers also recognized the important role of corporate social responsibility efforts towards establishing responsible mining practices.
Chemical Health and Safety
The United States works closely with health and safety agencies throughout the APEC region to enhance cooperation on chemical health and safety regulations that increase protection for consumers, employees, and the environment, while facilitating trade by minimizing duplication of effort and increasing transparency.
The United States is leading work for APEC economies to take new actions to promote the widespread usage of electric vehicles through aligning existing regulations and basing new regulations on international standards. Such actions would ensure that the new wave of environmentally friendly, technologically advanced electric vehicles are safe and convenient to use in order to gain greater acceptance by consumers and a bigger share of the global automotive marketplace. A centerpiece of these actions is a commitment to interoperability of electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, and communications protocols, so as to create greater opportunities for trade and investment in this area. These efforts align with past APEC commitments to reduce fossil fuel consumption, reduce pollution, and grow renewable sources of energy as key environmental objectives.
During its 2011 APEC host year, the United States secured a groundbreaking Leaders commitment to reduce tariffs on environmental goods to five percent or less by the end of 2015. In 2012, APEC economies succeeded in developing a list of 54 environmental goods, such as water treatment filters, gas and wind turbines, and solar water heaters, which would be subject to this tariff reduction commitment.
As part of their efforts to implement this commitment, economies will submit implementation plans by the Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in early spring next year. The United States has continued to lead on this issue in APEC and is providing technical assistance to help economies implement their environmental goods commitments effectively. The 2011 Leaders commitment on environmental goods provided the impetus for the United States and several other APEC economies, including China, to launch the WTO Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) negotiations in July 2014, which will build on this Leaders commitment.
Reducing Aviation Emissions
APEC Leaders have stressed the importance of integrating Transportation and Energy ministerial agendas, and the United States-led APEC Air Traffic Management (ATM) Emissions Reduction technical cooperation initiative -endorsed by APEC’s Transportation and Energy Working Groups - responds to their mandate. Under this initiative, the United States plans to partner with the civil aviation authorities of Vietnam and the Philippines on a technical cooperation effort to analyze how advanced air traffic management technologies and practices can improve the efficiency of airline operations and reduce aviation emissions and fuel consumption within these two member economies and later share best practices with all APEC members through a technical workshop in 2015. The project will also support the commitment by APEC’s Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) to achieve an APEC-wide target of a 10 percent improvement in supply-chain performance by 2015, in terms of reductions in transport sector time and cost.