What’s the Future for North America’s Environment?


A new report from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) examines the major forces and underlying trends likely to shape North America’s environment in 2030 and outlines nine areas where decisions today will affect our environmental future in varying degrees. In fact, although the pressures on the continent’s environment will continue to increase over the next 20 years, the report emphasizes that it would be a mistake to assume that our choices today can’t impact environmental quality down the road.

The CEC Report

North American Environmental Outlook to 2030 scans environmental data and projections by the UN Environment Program, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and others to examine a range of different environmental scenarios for North America. The nine areas to watch fall into three categories:

1. Greatest potential for impact by 2030

  • Energy use and associated emissions, especially from transportation and buildings
  • Water use and treatment of wastewater

2. Most significant coming changes

  • Continued and accelerated warming, especially in the Arctic
  • Continued loss of terrestrial biodiversity
  • Persistent ground-level ozone in urban areas

3. Issues deserving greater attention

  • Growth in urban and built-up land area
  • Freshwater quality and groundwater availability and quality
  • The specific economic and health effects of environmental change
  • The impact of consumption in North America on the environment in other regions and vice versa


The scenarios examined in this report suggest that we should:

  • Take actions to confront those changes we can best affect in the short term;
  • Prepare for environmental change that’s almost inevitable but amenable to action in the longer term; and
  • Strengthen our knowledge concerning emerging changes about which we know the least.