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International Influence of the Acid Rain Program

2010 April 26


As an undergraduate at North Carolina State University, I spent almost 6 months studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Famous for being one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse cities in the world it was easy for me to get lost in the beauty of my surroundings. I was fortunate enough to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT), which is perfectly situated high up on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, providing every student with a bird’s eye view over the city below and the waters of Table Bay. However, just to the east, that same view reveals an unsettling image of the dense air pollution over many of the nearby township communities. Some days the pollution was so thick that you could not see anything else, and it was that constant reminder of needed environmental attention that sparked my interest in international environmental protection. Now, as an intern in EPA’s Clean Air Markets Division, I decided to find out how EPA was helping to address situations like these abroad.

For most people, EPA isn’t the first agency that comes to mind when thinking about international outreach. However, pollution knows no boundaries and many of our recent air quality challenges have been global in scope. In response to this problem, EPA has been providing support in clean air policy on an international level for several years now. The success of the Acid Rain Program has generated interest in other countries and EPA has responded to invitations and requests to offer guidance to those countries.

Sharing a five-thousand mile border with the United States, Canada was the first country that EPA began working with in an attempt to provide cleaner air for both countries through international cooperation. In a joint effort to limit acid rain-forming air pollution that crosses country borders (such as NOx and SO2), the U.S. and Canada signed an agreement in 1991 called the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement. This agreement outlines specific objectives related to the reduction of air pollution for both the U.S. and Canada. After nineteen years of success, the EPA has formed a longstanding relationship with Canada in which each country has worked cooperatively at improving air quality.

In more recent years, several individuals in EPA’s Clean Air Markets Division (CAMD) have played an integral part assisting in the research necessary to build clean air programs in countries abroad. EPA has met with representatives of more than 50 countries to communicate lessons from the Acid Rain Program that might apply to their air quality challenges.

China is currently at the core of CAMD’s international effort as China is working to implement a national SO2 emissions trading program. This would be a market-based program to achieve emission caps established by the central government. In addition to communicating experience from implementing market-based programs, EPA is also assisting China in improving their emissions monitoring.

Mexico is also receiving a fair amount of attention as the U.S. is working with Canada on a project to aid the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in the production of a countrywide air pollution emissions inventory. This inventory will be the foundation for future regulations for the country. EPA is providing expertise and technical support in areas such as emissions monitoring, reporting and verification.

After my experience in South Africa, I can greatly appreciate the international efforts EPA is making toward cleaner air. Coming from a country that has the resources and cares so much about our environment, it was easy for me to recognize how lucky we are to have the Acid Rain Program and similar efforts to protect the environment.

For more information on our international partnerships, check out the Clean Air Markets Partnerships web page. Also, we’d like to hear from you. What other international partnerships would you like to see EPA develop to combat air pollution problems related to acid rain?

Kyle Campbell is the Geographic Information Systems intern in the Clean Air Markets Division. He is completing his senior year at North Carolina State University in Environmental Technology.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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