Recently, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s (CEC) 29th Council Session and the Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) Public Forum was hosted in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.
The two-day conference brought together the top environmental officials of North America, Indigenous groups, local communities, as well as youth under the theme “Community-led Environmental Education for Sustainable Development”.
Invited to the Council Session was 25-year-old Turks and Caicos Islander and Co-Founder of Decomp, Gabriel Saunders. “It was an incredible experience attending the CEC’s 29th Council Session. I thank the CEC for organizing such an impactful conference, as well as for the invitation” stated Saunders.
While at the CEC’s 29th Council Session, Saunders was selected for a Youth Closed Meeting where he and others helped develop a proposal of actions that the CEC was encouraged to adopt. Saunders also took time out at the Council Session to discuss his vision and goals for Decomp with Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Steven Guilbeault; the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator, Michael S. Regan; and Mexico’s Head of the International Affairs Coordination Unit of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, Miguel Ángel Zerón at the Council Exhibition.
At the Council Exhibition, under the theme “Sharing Knowledge and Perspectives: Emergent Tools and Methods for Protecting our Shared Environment”, Saunders showcased Decomp to top environmental officials, subject matter experts, other youth environmental leaders, and to the general public.
The 29th Council Session, which was hosted at Centro Internacional De Congresos De Yucatan in Mérida, Mexico was the CEC’s first Ministerial Session to take place in person since 2019. With the goal of “reinforcing trilateral commitments to preserve, protect and enhance the North American environment”, the Council Session included panels, presentations, and an exhibition.
Prior to last year’s Council Session, Saunders’ Decomp was selected as the CEC’s Canadian 2021 Youth Innovation Challenge (YIC) Winner. The annual challenge invites North American youth, aged 18 to 30, to pitch entrepreneurial solutions that facilitate communities becoming more resilient and adaptive to climate change, and foster equal access to healthy environments for all, particularly underserved and vulnerable communities in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Decomp, a biotechnology start-up that is seeking to tackle plastic waste pollution with proprietary plastic-degrading microbes, was evaluated by nine experts in economic development, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable development on: (i) impact, (ii) innovativeness, (iii) feasibility and scalability, and (iv) economic value.
Due to winning the competition, Decomp received:
$15,000 in non-dilutive seed funding,
year-long coaching and mentorship from the CEC and CoalitionWILD, and
the opportunity to present Decomp at the CEC’s 28th Council Session
Notes: The governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico founded the CEC in 1994 through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation – a parallel environmental agreement to NAFTA.
Governed and funded equally by said governments, the CEC brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to seek solutions to protect North America’s shared environment while supporting sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations. The CEC’s 30th Council Session will be hosted in British Columbia, Canada in 2023.