Mexico’s Environment Secretary, Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, delivered the country’s ratification of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations today, bringing Mexico into the fold of the now-60 countries who have ratified this groundbreaking treaty to combat global climate change with domestic action. Those 60 countries account for 47.76% of emissions worldwide.
In fact, Mexico is the latest of many Latin American countries that have taken this important step, with others on the way. Here are the countries’ positions to date:*
- Countries that have ratified: Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Peru
- Countries that have announced their intentions to ratify in 2016: Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Paraguay
- Countries that have not announced: Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela
Latin American countries are among the world’s hardest hit by climate change impacts. Melting glaciers, increased flooding and droughts, devastated coral reefs, and decreased agricultural yields are just some of the ways in which people and the environment are already suffering in the region. These impacts have a significant financial burden, too: experts have estimated that economic losses caused by global warming could amount to $100 billion annually by 2050 in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s no wonder, then, that 61% of the region’s citizens believe that climate change is the most serious threat facing the planet.
That’s also why—just like in the lead-up to the Paris negotiations that resulted in the treaty—Latin America is proving to be a leading region on climate solutions. My colleague, Carolina Herrera, has described some of the actions different countries are taking here.
So what does this mean for Mexico? By ratifying the agreement, Mexico’s government officially has committed to meet the climate goals it proposed last March ahead of the December 2015 COP in Paris. Effectively, the “intended nationally determined contribution” (or INDC) that the government had presented is no longer “intended,” but is rather now a formal goal, and the country (like all others who ratify the Paris Agreement) needs to meet it.
For Mexico, this means:
- Unconditionally reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 22% and black carbon emissions by 51% of business-as-usual levels by 2030. With international assistance, these cuts could grow to 36% for GHGs and up to 70% for black carbon.
- Peaking net emissions from 2026 and reducing emissions per unit of GDP by around 40% from 2013 to 2030.
- Taking numerous adaptation measures to lessen the vulnerability of communities to climate change and to ameliorate climate impacts on ecosystems, infrastructure and productive systems. Included in this list is a commitment to achieve 0% deforestation by 2030.
To meet these goals, Mexico is going to have to make strong, strategic policies. This is specifically true in the energy sector, the country’s largest sources of emissions. As my colleague Carolina wrote, there needs to be a clear and direct alignment between the policy framework of the country’s energy sector and these international commitments. Much of the political focus since the historic energy reform almost three years ago has been on the country’s fossil fuel sector. Even with more recent legislation to try to help cleaner energy sources grow, there must be a clearer focus on ensuring that renewables, energy efficiency, demand-side management, and other resources have the tools, regulations and support in place with which to flourish.
In addition—and particularly to make the black carbon reductions—the government also needs to prioritize enacting new standards to regulate emissions from heavy duty vehicles and implement the new standard regulating fuel quality. You can read more about the importance of these standards here.
Mexico’s action today is an important one—a demonstration of the country’s continued presence as a climate leader on the world stage and of Latin America’s continued leadership to combat climate change and its devastating impacts. Now that Mexico’s goals are formal, the real work begins to make sure that the country meets those goals, and hopefully even surpasses them.
*Note that this list includes countries in South America, Central America and Mexico and excludes countries in the Caribbean.