Groups to Biden Admin: Step Up Climate Diplomacy with Mexico
WASHINGTON – Leading legal, foreign policy and environmental groups are urging the Biden administration to step up climate diplomacy and push back against policies by the government of Mexico that promote fossil fuel electricity at the expense of clean energy. These practices undermine the global fight against climate change, inhibit a clean energy transition in Mexico, and harm emission reduction efforts in North America, they write in a letter to President Biden.
“The impact of Mexico’s actions would be felt far beyond the country’s borders, including in the context of our own emission reduction efforts,” the groups write. “The deep integration of U.S. and Mexican supply chains means such policies would undermine the clean energy transition of key productive sectors in the North American economy, such as vehicle manufacturing. If renewable energy production in Mexico is constrained, U.S. and other global companies operating in Mexico will be unable to meet their voluntary clean energy and climate mitigation targets.”
The groups noted that a current proposal to modify the Mexican constitution would reverse recent progress toward a cleaner grid and competitive energy. It would prioritize using electricity from fossil fuel plants owned by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) over cleaner and less expensive wind and solar plants operated by independent companies.
This would have “grave consequences for the climate and local air quality,” the groups write. Furthermore, Mexico—the 13th largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world—would be unable to meet its international climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, undermining global efforts to curb dangerous climate change.
“We urge you to further elevate climate change in all U.S. government engagement with Mexico, including but not limited to using all available tools under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) to address Mexico’s failure to comply with its international commitments as well as its own environmental laws and standards by repeatedly inhibiting the production of renewable energy,” the groups write.
They include: Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); Earthjustice; Foreign Policy for America; GreenLatinos; League of Conservation Voters; Methane Action; NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council); Rethink Trade; Sierra Club; and The People's Justice Council.
A blog on this issue by NRDC Latin America expert Carolina Herrera is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/carolina-herrera/us-energy-secretary-must-raise-climate-concerns-mexico
The full text of the letter follows:
January 14, 2022
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC, 20500-0005
Dear Mr. President:
As organizations that work to protect human health and combat climate change, we are deeply concerned that Mexico is falling short of its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite statements emerging from the Leaders’ Summit regarding Mexico’s commitment to work closely with the United States to accelerate renewable energy deployment across North America, in practice, the energy policies and actions implemented over the last three years are moving backward from the necessary clean energy transition we need to combat the climate crisis. We urge you to further elevate climate change in all U.S. government engagement with Mexico, including but not limited to using all available tools under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) to address Mexico’s failure to comply with its international commitments as well as its own environmental laws and standards by repeatedly inhibiting the production of renewable energy.
Mexico is the 13th largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter in the world and its electricity sector is the country’s second largest source of emissions after transportation. The sector accounts for 20 percent of the country’s total GHG emissions and 19 percent of Mexico’s black carbon emissions. Per the analysis of Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), the electricity sector also presents the most cost- effective opportunity for GHG reductions. Mexico’s General Climate change Law (LGCC) includes an unconditional commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 22 percent and its black carbon emissions by 51 percent by 2030, enshrining into national law the emission reduction commitments in the country’s 2016 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.
Despite this, the energy policies espoused by the Mexican government, if fully implemented, will make it impossible for Mexico to achieve these emission mitigation targets, much less the more ambitious reductions necessary to align with a 1.5˚C pathway that the world is rallying around. The current proposal to modify the Mexican constitution would unwind progress made in recent years toward a cleaner grid and competitive energy. It would prioritize the dispatch of electricity from fossil fuel plants owned by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) over cleaner and less expensive wind and solar plants operated by independent companies. The proposed reform is the latest example of the Mexican government’s repeated actions to inhibit the deployment of renewable energy and prop up the state-owned energy companies in ways that would undermine commitments Mexico has made domestically and in numerous international fora, including at COP26 and as part of the Global Methane Pledge.
Mexico’s energy policies would have grave consequences for the climate and local air quality. A new analysis by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the potential impacts on Mexico’s power system of the government’s proposed energy policies found that prioritizing CFE-owned generation plants could increase annual CO2 emissions by 26 percent (29.4 Mton) to 65 percent (73.5 Mton). In particular, the proposed changes would result in considerably higher burning of fuel oil, a high sulfur byproduct of Mexico’s inefficient oil refining process. Prioritizing CFE-owned power plants would increase fuel oil consumption between 824 percent (2,192 Mgal) and 1,109 percent (2,953 Mgal). As a result, SO2 emissions could jump by 153 percent (2.27 Mton) or as much as 256 percent (3.81 Mton). Fuel oil power plants in Mexico are already responsible for toxic air pollution linked to public health problems. In certain cases, such as the CFE thermal electric plant and PEMEX refinery in Tula, Hidalgo there have been repeated violations of air and water quality standards.
The impact of Mexico’s actions would be felt far beyond the country’s borders, including in the context of our own emission reduction efforts. The deep integration of U.S. and Mexican supply chains means such policies would undermine the clean energy transition of key productive sectors in the North American economy, such as vehicle manufacturing. If renewable energy production in Mexico is constrained, U.S. and other global companies operating in Mexico will be unable to meet their voluntary clean energy and climate mitigation targets. For example, the CEO of GE Mexico, Francisco Garza, recently stated that without a solid legal basis for renewable energy production in Mexico, “…the conditions won’t be given that permit us to meet our objective of having zero emissions in the long term.” The higher costs associated with CFE’s fossil fuel plants would also be passed on to companies and consumers across both sides of the border. According to the same NREL analysis, the reforms could raise electricity production costs between 32 percent to 53 percent, due to increased fuel oil and coal consumption. The climate inaction of such a large emitting country would lead to more climate pollution than the world can afford.
Accelerating the clean energy transition in both our countries is fundamental to build a green and equitable economy for people across North America. Policies that undermine domestic and international efforts run counter to the Mexican government’s commitments to its own people and international partners, contributing to climate impacts that will affect people in the U.S. and around the world. In view of your Administration’s commitment to put climate at the center of U.S. foreign policy, actions that send a clear message that climate is a high-level priority in the U.S. and Mexico bilateral relationship will help ensure that pledges Mexico made at the Leaders’ Summit do not remain as empty rhetoric. We urge you to use all the tools at your disposal to firmly push back on policies that directly inhibit Mexico’s critical clean and just energy transition.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Center for International Environmental Law
Foreign Policy for America
League of Conservation Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
The People's Justice Council
Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy
Katharine Tai, United States Trade Representative
John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.