Guest blog: Inspecting Mexico's Latest Climate Change Plan

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Guest blog by Cristina Cordova, an aspiring environmental advocacy professional with a Master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy from American University. She is currently conducting climate change policy research for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Latin America team.

Mexico is a global leader in climate change initiatives and a forerunner in Latin American climate change policy development. Mexico’s latest climate change plan, the second stage of their flagship three stage climate change initiative plan, was recently released by their Special Climate Change Program (PECC).  The plan, called PECC 2014-2018, is straightforward and seems to address all pressing climate concerns, but the question is: will this plan be enough to fulfill Mexico’s climate change commitments?

The PECC is Mexico’s national climate change policy instrument that ultimately seeks to implement large-scale adaptation and mitigation initiatives and achieve Mexico’s long-term climate change goals.  The PECC is a three stage process: stage one occurred in 2009-2012 period and assessed “the country’s vulnerability and conducted an economic valuation of priority measures.” Stage two will “strengthen Mexico’s strategic adaptation capacities” and stage three will “consolidate capacities already built”. The 2014 – 2018 edition of the PECC is stage two of this process and addresses Mexico’s vulnerabilities and provides five strategic objectives, aiming to fortify Mexico’s mitigation and adaptation measures as well as to ensure the development of climate change monitoring and evaluation systems:

1. Reduce vulnerability of the population and profitable sectors and strengthen strategic infrastructure.

2. Conserve, restore, and sustainably manage vital ecosystems, conserving their environmental services for/through climate change mitigation and adaptation.

3.  Reduce GHG emissions to transition into a green competitive economy and low emissions development.

4. Reduce short lived climate pollutants emissions – ensuring/promoting health and wellbeing.

5. Consolidate national climate change policy instruments through effective coordination between states, municipalities, society and legislative power.

Strategies and climate actions are listed under each particular objective help to achieve that goal.

Interestingly, gender and climate change are also addressed in an effort to reduce the gap between the climate change vulnerabilities of men and women. The importance of this gender specific lens to climate change policy has been highlighted by the United Nations' Women Watch:

“Women form a disproportionately large share of the poor in countries all over the world. Women in rural areas in developing countries are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood, because of their responsibility to secure water, food and energy for cooking and heating. The effects of climate change, including drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation, make it harder to secure these resources. By comparison with men in poor countries, women face historical disadvantages, which include limited access to decision-making and economic assets that compound the challenges of climate change.

It is therefore imperative that a gender analysis be applied to all actions on climate change and that gender experts are consulted in climate change processes at all levels, so that women's and men’s specific needs and priorities are identified and addressed.”

Mexico’s government has addressed this issue with gender-specific ”transversal” objectives provided by the National Program for Equal Opportunities and No Discrimination against Women (PROIGUALIDAD) at the end of each of the PECC 2014-2018’s core objectives. One of the cross-objectives, for example, is to “promote women's access to paid work, decent work and productive resources, within a framework of equality”. This cross-objective is supported by the following strategy: “Promote women's access to ownership of land, water, technology and market information, for productive purposes”. These cross-objectives are always followed by supporting strategies and climate actions.

Compared to the PECC’s Stage 2 rough draft, released in March 2014; content-wise, the PECC 2014-2018 contains much of the same information. There have been however, some important changes worth noting. For example, under the emissions objective: to “Reduce GHG emissions to transition into a green competitive economy and low emissions development,” changes have been made to its climate actions:  “promote the use of geothermal and low enthalpy for thermal use” was removed and replaced with  “encouraging investment in smart networks that would facilitate the incorporation of renewable energy and loss reduction”.  This is illustrative of a pattern in the edits: many of the climate actions have been rephrased to be less specific (such as promotion of geothermal energy) and instead more general (using renewable energy over referencing geothermal energy in particular). 

CEMDA, the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights, has urged the Mexican federal government to adjust the PECC 2014-2018 as necessary to succeed in achieving Mexico’s climate change goals. CEMDA has noted Mexico must abate 37.2 MtCo2e each year, indicating that Mexico must prepare a robust climate change policy, of which PECC plays a part, to establish priority initiatives. Should the Mexican federal government fail to secure strong initiatives, CEMDA warns Mexico that they would not only fail to comply with their international commitments but would also put 15% of the country, 68% of the population and 71% of Mexican GDP at risk.  “In order to fulfill the commitments made on both a national and international level, the country [Mexico] must accelerate a series of actions involving different sectors of society, whose coordination must have clear leadership and guidance from the Mexican government.  Otherwise, it will be impossible to reduce Mexico’s emissions and this would aggravate Mexico’s climate change vulnerability”.

Stage 2 of the PECC addresses Mexico’s climate vulnerability, climate change policy needs, and emissions improvements. It also makes a concerted effort to incorporate the issue of gender into climate action. However, this plan could be too vague. The proposed climate actions are flexible and do not provide the rigorous response that has been suggested. Despite that, this author remains hopeful that Mexico’s commitments won’t fall by the wayside, and that our Latin American neighbor will continue to drive climate change efforts even without strong political guidelines.