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Building Environmental Governance Capacity in U.S. Trading Partners

In an increasingly global economy, how can the U.S. ensure that trade agreements don’t result in unanticipated environmental consequences? The Environmental Governance Capacity Building Program, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeks to address this growing challenge. Battelle has been selected to lead support to EPA for this initiative. 

The goal of the project is to assist government agencies and institutions in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East in strengthening their capacity for environmental regulation and oversight. The five-year, $5 million cooperative agreement will focus on building technical, legal, research, analytical and program implementation capacity to address a variety of environmental challenges. The focus areas include:

  • Water resource management
  • Solid waste management
  • Air quality management
  • Greenhouse gases (GHG), black carbon, and climate adaptation and resiliency
  • Emergency response capacity
  • Environmental impact assessments (EIA)
  • Public participation/social inclusion
  • Environmental enforcement and compliance

Funding for the agreement comes in part through recent U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), U.S.-Chile FTA, U.S.-Jordan FTA and U.S.-Morocco FTA, among others. Requirements for environmental governance among trading partners has been built in to many recent FTAs to ensure that trading partners are meeting minimum environmental standards required by the FTA. The ultimate goals are to promote sustainable growth, reduce environmental impacts for both the U.S. and its trading partners, and ensure that businesses in these countries are operating under similar environmental standards as businesses in the United States.

Many of the countries named in recent FTAs are developing nations without strong capacity and infrastructure to support environmental regulation and compliance. Because environmental consequences are often transnational or global, it is in the United States’ best interest to help these trading partners develop the technical, legal and programmatic capacity to set and enforce minimum environmental standards.

Battelle’s work on the initiative will build on previous work for the EPA as part of the Technical Assistance for Urban Air Quality Management program in Central America. Battelle brings extensive experience in international capacity building, including recent work in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia as well as other international development projects conducted in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies. In addition, Battelle has deep scientific and technical expertise across the environmental focus areas for this project.

The multidisciplinary team of experts put together by Battelle includes senior researchers across a range of environmental disciplines, program leaders with extensive experience in environmental governance capacity building, and regional subject matter experts who have lived and worked in the focus regions. Battelle has also contracted with other organizations to provide specific expertise. Eastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG) will provide subject matter expertise and support in the areas of municipal solid waste management, wastewater treatment inspections and air emissions inventories. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will assist in building capacity on public participation and environmental enforcement.

In each country or region, the Battelle team will work closely with EPA to assess local needs and provide specific training, analysis and recommendations based on the needs identified. Some of the first work will be conducted in Morocco, Chile and Honduras.