Mexico takes action against climate change. Now, who’s next?
Mexico is emerging as a regional leader in Latin America in the fight against climate change with two new initiatives to cut greenhouse gas pollutants and promote clean energy. By reducing short-lived greenhouse gas emissions and scaling up renewable energy Mexico can achieve cleaner and healthier air, help fight climate change, and create new green jobs and opportunities for its citizens. These are exactly the types of actions governments and other key actors need to take as we move closer to this June’s Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil. Over the coming months, leaders in other Latin American countries have the chance to emulate the Mexican example and show that they too are ready to commit toward securing a more sustainable future for the region. And this must be only a start for Mexico as there are a number of initiatives that they must follow through on.
As part of the newly announced Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Mexico joins forces with the United States, Ghana, Bangladesh, Sweden and Canada to reduce short-lived greenhouse gas emissions like black carbon, methane and hydroflourocarbons. While these emissions only stay in the atmosphere for a few weeks or months, they represent a serious human health concern and are responsible for 30 to 40 percent of climate change impacts. A significant portion of these pollutants come from diesel emissions and present a major challenge to health and clean air in Latin America. Although Mexico has already taken some worthwhile steps to reduce harmful diesel emissions in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and in the border zone, the state-owned oil company, PEMEX, has refused to comply with a federal regulation that required ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel to be sold nationwide by 2009. As a result, the Mexican government has not been able to move to the next step of adopting cleaner tailpipe emission standards from diesel engines, which would dramatically reduce Mexico’s black carbon emissions.
Mexico’s decision to form part of this global initiative is a step in the right direction – not only will Mexico be working toward tangible results against climate change, but it will also help improve the health of local citizens. What’s more, as Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources noted during the initiative’s launch, this coalition is “a call to action for all countries willing to mitigate these pollutants”. Now it is time for Mexico to follow through on this step by moving forward with a new commitment to reducing sulfur levels in diesel fuel and adopting cleaner emission standards for all diesel vehicles.
But the government isn’t the only one taking action. Leaders from Mexico’s private sector, civil society and academia came together just last week and launched the Mexican Initiative for Renewable Energy to pave the way for cleaner energy and help fight climate change. Sixty percent of Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector, and unless the country makes cleaner and more efficient energy choices now it could face emissions that are up to 230% higher by 2050. This new initiative recognizes the critical role the private sector can play in rapidly scaling up renewables and will urge the government to:
- Establish ambitious targets for renewable energy;
- Facilitate the access of renewable energy to the electric grid;
- Set prices and incentives that encourage renewable energy;
- Reduce fossil fuel subsidies; and
- Foster local renewable energy components.
This timely initiative should help tap into Mexico’s abundant wind energy resources. According to Mexico’s Wind Energy Association, wind could generate 12,000 MW of power and meet 15% of national demand by 2020. In doing so, wind energy would help reduce Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions by 23 million tons, generate 45,000 jobs and contribute over US$13 billion to the GDP. It is time for the Mexican government to finally implement the set of measures that this coalition rallied around.
These advances we’re seeing from Mexico’s government, private sector and civil society are the types of actions NRDC has been calling for from countries around the world in the lead up to Rio+20. Significantly, the example set by Mexico shows that action can – and should – come from both developed and developing countries. The rising sea levels, disrupted weather patterns and other impacts brought on by climate change will affect all countries regardless of the origin of current and historical greenhouse gas emissions. But the social, health, environmental and economic benefits of moving toward cleaner energy and fuels will be felt first and foremost in the countries that undertake this transition. Latin America is one of the regions that is most exposed to the heavy toll of climate change and it cannot afford to not act. Nor should its leaders ignore the many benefits cleaner energy and fuels will bring. So congratulations to Mexico for taking these steps to fight climate change and in the process improve the quality life for its citizens. They need to now follow through with these plans by translating these commitments into action. The time for talk is over.