Mexico takes steps to cut emissions

Updated: 2015-04-06 03:41

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily Latin America)

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Plans by the Mexican government to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions before a global climate change conference in Paris at the end of the year are likely to be bolstered by more changes to the country's clean energy initiatives, according to a climate change expert.

"Mexico was the first developing country to have a general climate change law, and they're one of the first countries to come out with their INDC (intended nationally determined contribution)," said Carolina Herrera, a Latin America advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

"They had these previous targets of reaching 30 percent reductions with respect to the baseline by 2020 and further reductions of 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2050," she said. “They have a clean energy target of 35 percent by 2024.

"Mexico coming out early with their INDC definitely does send a strong message," Herrera told China Daily in a telephone interview. "Mexico and others in Latin America have their bit to play, too."

On March 27, Mexico announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent and its black carbon (soot) 51 percent by 2030.

The country is the 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, according to NRDC data.

Mexico's INDC also calls for the peaking of emissions by 2026 in keeping with the country's goal of halving emissions by the year 2050 (compared with levels in the year 2000).

"We see this as a continuation of that leadership at the international level on climate action," Herrera said. "They're not sitting on their hands when it comes to the climate negotiations. It's an ambitious goal, but we think it's achievable and they can probably do more."

The INDC, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, lays out a country's contributions and goals toward achieving its climate change initiatives.

Countries that have the ability to do so were supposed to submit their INDCs by March. Other countries are likely to submit later this year, but no later than the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris from Nov 30 to Dec 11.

Countries that have submitted their preliminary INDC plans include Mexico, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and the United States. Latvia and the European Union also have submitted proposals.

Alvin Lin, the NRDC's China climate and energy policy director, said China's proposal would likely be a continuation of the announcement made by President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama in November.

China intends to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by around 2030, or sooner if possible.

On March 31, the Obama administration published plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

US officials highlighted that countries producing 60 percent of global greenhouse gases have now pledged to cut or slow the pace of those emissions.

China, the US, India, Russia and Japan are the world's five largest emitters of greenhouse gases, according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center.

Herrera said that while Mexico's emissions account for less than 2 percent of the global totals, the country is still the "second-highest emitter" in Latin America, trailing only Brazil.

"Making energy supply more secure nationally, adding cleaner air, these things ultimately are good at home," she said. "Frankly speaking, the climate really cares about the total number of emissions. All countries' efforts are important, and the aggregate of all those efforts are what's really going to get us on the track that we need to be on."

Mexico needs to "set out how they're going to meet these targets," Herrera said. "That needs to include development of renewable energy."

Chile also has been "very active" in the INDC process, including a public consultation process that has been running for several months, she said.

"Chile has done a really good job of their public consultation process," Herrera said. "They essentially launched their draft INDC back in December and opened it up for comments. We are expecting Chile to announce sometime in June or July. Other countries, it’s not so clear."

Herrera said there have been some inklings coming from Colombia, Peru and Brazil, but few countries have laid out many concrete details.

Herrera said China can help Latin America build toward the goal of a lower carbon world.

"There are certainly significant opportunities for that bilateral relation that exists between China and the region as a whole," Herrera said. "China has a significant amount of spending potential, and you see Chinese investment in Latin America. They can really help boost solar and wind energy.

"It’s just a question of directing the investment where it will help contribute to these low-carbon solutions that exist," she said. "There are opportunities for the region and China, or others, to work on developing renewable energy, to work on having more sustainable cities, etc. There are challenges that are shared, like trying to get people out of poverty and into the 21st century, and there are positive solutions that behoove both sets of parties."

Amy He in New York and Reuters contributed to this story.