Mexico can be a leader when it hosts the next climate negotiations by taking additional steps to reduce its global warming emissions

Mexico will host the next major climate negotiation meeting in Cancun this December.  As the host they will play a critical role in helping to produce a successful outcome in the international negotiations (as I discussed here).  And they will also be expected to show the world that it is a leader in taking action to address climate change at home.  The spotlight will be on them on both fronts.

As a part of the climate Summit in Copenhagen, Mexico made an important commitment to reduce its global warming pollution.  Mexico announced that it would take concrete steps through 2012 and would commit to reduce their emissions by 30% below their projected levels by 2020 (as we outlined here)—a level which would effectively hold them to today’s levels (according to projections from the World Bank). 

Before Cancun it will be critical that Mexico show that it is taking concrete steps to reduce its emissions towards these commitments.  In this way they will be in a position of not just helping the world move towards coordinated international efforts, but also leading on climate policies at home.  Actions speak louder than words.  Of course, they won’t be alone in this undertaking as all major emitters have announced commitments to cut their global warming pollution

My colleagues Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Adriana Quintero, and I were in Mexico City recently for a series of meetings with key governmental officials, NGOs, leaders in the business community, and other policymakers.  We heard a lot about the policies and programs that are in various stages of development.  A number of these policy options are captured in a recent study conducted by the World Bank which found that by introducing 40 key measures Mexico could stabilize their emissions at 2008 levels—with almost two-thirds of these measures saving Mexico money.  But these are just paper options until the Mexican government puts in place the policies and programs to turn them from paper into practice.

While we were in Mexico we heard about a couple of these initiatives.  Some of these seem ripe to finalize before Cancun.  

Mexico has been discussing establishing fuel economy and air pollution standards for cars and trucks.  Road transportation accounts for around 16% of Mexico’s global warming pollution.  It is currently the fastest growing sector and this trend is expected to continue (according to the World Bank report).  Mexican environmental officials have been discussing new vehicle efficiency standards to cut this growth, along with new air pollution limits to ensure that Mexico’s future vehicles help reverse the chronically high air pollution levels found in Mexico’s cities, for years.  Cancun would be an opportune time to announce the Mexico’s plans to bring clean, efficient vehicles to Mexico.  In fact given that the US market – very connected to the Mexican market – is moving rapidly in this direction, taking this step should be easier than ever before. 

We also heard about the national budget and questions around whether it would establish dedicated funding to help implement the set of near-term measures that Mexico outlined in its “Special Program on Climate Change”.  A lot of people were wondering would the new budget include real dedicated funding to implement climate programs?  We know from experience, and the World Bank report confirms, that dedicating tangible resources towards energy efficiency and renewable energy is a promising way to reduce emissions.  And in the case of energy efficiency it helps to save money allowing Mexico to dedicate resources to other productive uses.  Will Mexico increase its budgetary support for these critical investments? 

We also discussed with key policymakers a national climate law being developed by Mexican Senator Alberto Cárdenas Jiménez.  This law would establish a legal foundation for Mexico to move forward with climate policies after Cancun (a presentation of the draft law is available here and the draft law – in Spanish – is available here).

Now is the moment.  There are a number of initiatives in Mexico that are being developed to reduce its global warming.  Cancun is the perfect time to finalize those initiatives so the world knows that Mexico is serious about these efforts. 

As the host country, others will be looking at what Mexico does, not just what it says.