Civil society groups file a new complaint to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission about the country's poor air quality


Guest blog by Leticia Pineda, Mexican Center for Environmental Law, A.C. (CEMDA):

Several civil society organizations, including the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, A.C. (CEMDA), announced yesterday that we are filing an official complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Mexico, charging the government with failing to address our country’s poor air quality. Our main objective is to raise awareness of Mexicans’ right to breathe clean air and of the need to improve air quality in Mexico. Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, Energy, and Health are named in the complaint, since they have the responsibility of updating and implementing our national air quality policies.

Air pollution has been the principle and most costly cause of environmental degradation in Mexico since 2009, valued at approximately US$ 40.4 billion (or 520.229 million pesos) according to figures from Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that poor air quality caused 14,734 premature deaths in Mexico in 2008. This problem has become a major public policy challenge, made worse by the increase in the concentration of urban populations where motorization rates are also high.

According to the data highlighted in the complaint, the lag in updating Mexico’s air quality standards is alarming:

  • Ozone Standard, 11 years since the last update
  • Particulate Material Standard, eight years since the last update
  • Emission standards for light and heavy vehicles, seven years since the last update

Moreover, these authorities have failed to make ultra-low sulfur content fuels, specifically diesel, available nationwide, which would introduce improved vehicle technologies that dramatically improve the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulates.

The complaint should make this issue more visible. It also addresses the problem from the perspective of human rights, which will allow the NHRC to look into the facts presented and issue a resolution on the matter. The complaint is supported by a recent report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which officially classified outdoor air pollution as being carcinogenic to humans.

CEMDA was a part of a diverse group of organizations who filed the complaint, reflecting the broad significance of the topic in our country: El Poder del Consumidor, CTS Embarq México,  Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México (Redim), Bicitekas y Fundación Tláloc.

Hopefully the arguments we presented in this complaint will result in new public policy planning instruments, such as the Environment and Energy Sectoral Programs that are currently in development and will be finalized in the coming months. This would also be consistent with the signals from President Peña’s administration, as the National Development Program –the new government’s agenda for its term— included important action lines to improve Mexico’s air quality, to clean up our fuels and to strengthen our air monitoring systems.

About Leticia Pineda:

Born and raised in Mexico City, Leticia Pineda is an Industrial Engineer from the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM), where she studied environmental economics and environmental law. At CEMDA, Leticia works as a lawyer, researcher and public policy analyst for improving Mexican regulations on clean fuels and technologies, fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, sustainable transportation systems and climate change finance.