International climate negotiations are taking place in Cancun at the moment, and although there are low expectations for progress, the host county Mexico stands out as a bright spot. Mexico is one of the few developing nations that’s taking significant action, and according to this recent Washington Post article much of the credit goes to their President Felipe Calderon who is apparently “obsessed by climate change”. Some of Mexico’s successes on reducing greenhouse gas emissions show the value of having a strong leader on climate issues, especially considering all of the other challenges Mexico is facing. Excerpts are posted below.
“Mexico is battling billionaire drug mafias armed with bazookas, but when President Felipe Calderon ranks the threats his country faces, he worries more about methane gas, dwindling forests and dirty refineries.”
“The president is extremely engaged and very committed. He has instructed us to move, and move now, and not wait for anybody else,” said Fernando Tudela, the deputy secretary of planning and environmental policy.”
“Mexico is raising efficiency standards and helping citizens replace old refrigerators and air conditioners that don’t meet them. It is ratcheting up mandatory emissions controls for vehicles and struggling to reduce the number of aging, heavily polluting buses on its roads. Government lenders are offering “green mortgages” with lower interest rates to home buyers who insulate windows or install solar panels.
Officials are having landfills covered to trap methane gas and planning power plants fueled by garbage; the first such plant will be built in Monterrey. The state oil company,Pemex, has promised to slash the amount of methane it wastes at its refineries by creating cogeneration energy plants.
By 2012, if it stays on track, Mexico will have reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million tons, equal to the carbon produced by 45 days of domestic oil production.”
“This is not easy. For the locals, there is short-term gain in clearing forest land to grow corn or raise cattle, and there is a huge gap between Mexico’s richest citizens and the 50 percent who live in poverty. Massive government reforestation campaigns, such as ProArbol, have mostly withered, derailed by corruption, incompetence and the planting of saplings that were not suited to the environment and quickly died.
Like others, the government of Mexico has a long tradition of announcing lofty ambitions – for education, against poverty – only to see the goals quietly forgotten over the long haul. And fighting climate change is a marathon, according to everyone.
“There is a huge potential for green growth in Mexico,” said Tudela. “We would like to prove that a developing country can mitigate and adapt to climate change without hurting the economy. We want to prove that in Mexico.”