International Panel Concludes United States has Improved Environmental Performance
The United States has significantly improved its environmental performance in the last eight years, even as its economy and population have grown substantially, according to a report from the Environmental Performance Review Program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD). The report documents that from 1996 to 2005, the United States reduced pollution during a period when there was a 10-percent increase in the size of the U.S. population and a 30-percent increase in the nation's gross domestic product.
OECD's Environmental Performance Reviews program assists member countries in improving their environmental management performance by assessing progress, promoting a policy dialogue among member countries and stimulating greater accountability from governments toward public opinion. This is the second review of the United States; the first was completed in 1996.
"Since the first review in 1996, the health of our shared environment and the strength of our national economy have experienced dramatic improvement," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "By reaffirming our commitment to innovation, accountability and sound science, we have created a solid footing to meet the environmental challenges facing the U.S. in the 21st Century."
The U.S. Ambassador to the OECD, Constance A. Morella, remarked, "This review demonstrates the commitment the United States maintains toward the quality of its environment and the leadership role the U.S. plays within the OECD."
The report commends the United States for being a pioneer in market-based solutions, innovative policies and partnerships for an improved environment. Noting this progress, the review commends the United States for "decoupling" environmental pressures from economic growth, and it details progress in a number of key areas:
- Emissions of major air pollutants declined;
- Drinking water standards have been strengthened;
- Overall quality of the water supplied by public systems improved;
- Extensive system of national conservation areas was further expanded;
- Ecosystem management approaches have been introduced to improve management of many sensitive areas; and
- Environmental justice considerations and cooperation with tribal authorities concerning environmental conditions has increased substantially since the 1990s.
The review also includes 51 specific recommendations for the United States to continue its leadership in the field of environmental protection, such as expanding the role of market-based instruments and continuing promotion of environmental education and awareness, especially at state and local levels.
This U.S. review was based on a series of more than 700 interviews conducted by OECD's review team during a two-week visit to the United States in the summer of 2004. The peer review team included members from Australia, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom, together with OECD Secretariat staff.
OECD superseded the previous Organization for European Economic Cooperation, founded in 1948 to coordinate the post-war Marshall Plan for European economic recovery. Thirty member countries work together to promote economic expansion and world trade.
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.