Sunday, 28 November 2010 20:47

Mexico’s Carbon Quandaries

By Adam Kotin and Guy Edwards With the Cancún Climate Change Conference kicking off today, the eyes of the world turn anxiously toward the Mexican beach resort where this year’s host seems prepped to glimmer in the spotlight.  Boasting one of the most impressive low-carbon plans among developing nations and several large-scale mitigation projects already underway, the country offers a much-needed illustration of how to put your carbon where your mouth is. But even with the best-laid plans, Mexico faces a rising tide of obstacles, including a lack of investment, archaic legal and regulatory architecture, and rowdy social groups vexed by government plans to push its low-carbon development agenda upon them. To top things off critics fear the Cancún Conference  may fail to fully engage the world’s leaders, as memories of Copenhagen coupled with diminishing confidence in the UN system pervade the global debate. Mexico’s ambitious and progressive plans may not gain the international platform they desire while Cancún’s grandest hotels may avoid having to dust down all the red carpets.
Published in Climate Finance
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 10:25

Via Campesina March in Cancun

By Adam Kotin, Brown University Excerpts from the Via Campesina March, Cancun, Mexico, December 7, 2010. A civil society response to COP16, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Protestors came from all over the world to participate in the movement. They marched several kilometres towards the Moon Palace, where negotiations were being held, until they were stopped by a massive police barricade. [youtube][/youtube]
Published in Civil Society

By Guy Edwards and Taryn Martinez*

On the 21st November the World’s Mayors Summit on Climate took place in Mexico City where city leaders highlighted the progressive role played by urban centres on climate change in the face of sloth-like progress by national governments. Pioneering schemes in a number of Latin American cities illustrates how cities can be an ideal avenue to push low carbon development in the region.
Sunday, 21 February 2010 20:42

Can Mexico regain the momentum?

On the 2nd February, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa gave the 16th U Thant Distinguished Lecture entitled, ‘Preserving Our Common Heritage: Promoting a Fair Agreement on Climate Change’, hosted by the UN University. The event was convened in collaboration with Asahi Shimbun and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). The link to the speech can be found here. In hosting this December’s climate change conference, Mexico has an advantage over the previous hosts, the Danes. A key player in a region often branded as a land of missed opportunities while simultaneously sitting on the OECD and G20 respectively, Mexico can potentially bridge the seemingly unassailable void between rich and developing countries. This situation may help to smooth over the colossal trust deficit which pervades UN talks on global warming. Mexico is also a regional and global leader on climate change demonstrated by its ambitious Special Program on Climate Change and emissions reduction target of 50% below 2000 levels by 2050. It has also won international respect for its progressive Green Fund proposal which seeks to improve the international climate finance regime. The international community is in dire need of a global climate change champion with the political clout to push the debate forward. President Obama perhaps had his shot in Copenhagen. The EU is still recovering from a massive COP15 hangover while other contenders seem to be in short supply. Mexico could prove to be the guacamole missing from the climate change burrito.
Mexico will be hosting the COP 16 in December 2010. That gives international leaders, civil society and the world’s business community a year to get their act together to deliver a new climate change deal. In regards to Latin America and the climate change conundrum what is likely to happen in 2010? ICC offers 11 festive predictions for the year to come: 1. As Christiana Figueres points out in the previous post, it is uncertain whether Latin American countries can act together in the climate change negotiations. There is a risk that in the run up to December 2010 Latin American positions on global warming become more polarised. 2. It is possible Latin American countries counter these differences by working on common areas notably in energy, forestry, infrastructure and disaster reduction. The work of international organisations in the region such as CEPAL, BID and the World Bank will be crucial in supporting countries find this common ground. In turn, this strategy can pay dividends for the negotiations when countries take advantage of what they have in common and appreciate what they also risk losing by not working together. 3. Other Latin American organisations looking to advance their work programmes on climate change begin to assist this process. Mercosur, Andean Community of Nations, Organisation of American States, Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation, Latin American Energy Organisation, Central American Integration System, and the North American Free Trade Agreement step out of obscurity and bring plans to the table. 2010 will be an important year to see what they can offer. 4. Analysts despair at the UN system on climate change and how it may fail to secure a new treaty. Which other global organisations can fill this void? The G20 would appear to be an option but has only three Latin American members: Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Next December will not be enough time to find a replacement organisation for the UN. It remains to be seen whether these platforms have the capability and legitimacy or are indeed used effectively by their members to enhance the climate change debate. The UN continues to be the primary channel for negotiations. 5. CEPAL’s national and regional based economics of climate change studies in Latin America gain traction pushing the issue through government ministries across the region. 6. A rise in droughts, floods and prolonged power cuts across the Latin American region, due to abnormal weather patterns and rusty infrastructure, leads to an increase in public unrest and criticism of government and energy companies. 7. Latin America’s civil society movement continue to galvanise its long held and legitimate grievances against the Washington Consensus with the injustice of climate change impacts in the region. Projects, campaigns and protests rise prior to the Mexican conference. 8. The Latin American media caters for greater public interest in climate change by increasing coverage on this issue across the media spectrum. 9. Carbon markets in the both the compliance and voluntary sectors take a back seat in early 2010 but are revitalised in the wake of surging oil prices and a renewed commitment towards a new climate treaty in December. The renewable energy sector in Latin America benefits from this new found enthusiasm. 10. The Spanish presidency of the European Union leads to greater European attention towards Latin America with climate change becoming a priority in the EU-LAC Strategic Partnership. 11. The EU and Latin America’s largest polluters, Brazil and Mexico, begin discussing options to integrate the European Emission Trading Scheme with nationally based cap and trade schemes.
Robert Campbell reports on Mexico’s intentions to put forward an offer to cut the growth of its own greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen climate change negotiations:
"If Mexico can bring a plan for cuts through 2020 to the table with a detailed description of what will be mitigated it would set a positive precedent for the other big emerging economies," said Adrian Fernandez, the president of the National Ecology Institute, in an interview on Monday. The plan will likely offer significant cuts in expected emissions growth from Mexico, which currently accounts for 1.5 percent of global emissions, by proposing projects like improving efficiency of power plants or reducing deforestation. Mexico will be able to implement some of the initiatives itself and for others it will look for outside financing. Global climate talks have moved slowly as developing nations, such as China, have demanded that rich countries shoulder the bulk of the cuts experts say are needed to slow the warming of the earth. Mexico shares the view that wealthy countries, led by the United States, will have to provide a substantial amount of money to help poorer governments Mexico has also been supportive of the United States, which argues it cannot make deep cuts by 2020 but is prepared to commit to slashing emissions by 2050. Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced in June that Mexico would voluntarily cut 50 million tons of verifiable annual emissions by the end of his term in 2012. Despite Calderon's personal commitment to the issue, Mexico allowed carbon dioxide emissions from the oil industry to soar in 2008 as massive amounts of natural gas were flared off in a bid to keep aging oil fields in production. Mexico will need to make extensive legal changes to meet the emissions targets laid out in the plan, especially in the electricity and oil sectors which are largely closed to private investment. "There's not enough public money in the whole world to meet this challenge, the private sector is needed and for the private sector you need clear rules," Fernandez said. He said complicated legislation governing the electricity sector could hinder adoption of plans for renewable power. Finding the political will to tackle these sectors could be difficult. The Institutional Revolution Party which won last month's mid-term congressional elections blocked Calderon's attempt to open up oil refining to private investment last year and has vowed to protect the state run utilities. Businesses are taking note of a plan to launch so-called cap and trade measures in the United States to implement emissions cuts and Mexico could eventually join the scheme, Fernandez said.
Mark Stevenson, writing for The Associated Press, reports on the Mexican President's proposal for a $10 billion ‘green fund’ as a more efficient way to fight climate change than carbon credits:
Felipe Calderon spoke at the opening of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together representatives of 19 countries and the EU that together account for 80 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. "The current carbon credits would not have to disappear, but they are not an efficient mechanism," Calderon said, noting that the credits market "has to match an industry that wants to pollute with another" that has projects to compensate or reduce gas emissions. The two-day meeting is the third in a series of talks called for by President Barack Obama. The goal is to help broker a replacement for the expiring Kyoto Protocol, ahead of a UN conference in Copenhagen this December on a new international treaty for dealing with global warming. Calderon said the green fund could be administered by the World Bank or some other multilateral agency. It would be funded by contributions from all nations — and open to finance projects from all nations — as opposed to largely private-sector carbon credit market. "It will have a framework of greater multilateral participation, which will result in a more equitable and efficient distribution of funds," Calderon said. He said the idea "does not seek, as has been traditional, that the funds to fight climate change ... come from the same old donors as an act of charity or a handout given to developing countries." "It is time to move on from mutual reproaches, to a shared scheme of responsibility," Calderon said.
Published in Climate Finance
Tierramérica’s Emilio Godoy argues that this year’s World Environment Day host, Mexico, is lagging behind in developing renewable energy sources:
Despite its great potential for renewable energy, Mexico has not taken advantage of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The most recent available official data on greenhouse gas emissions indicates Mexico released 643 million tons of carbon dioxide per year: 61 percent from the generation and consumption of energy, 22 percent from industry and 14 percent from deforestation. Mexico could make better use of CDM projects to develop wind, solar and geothermal sources, energy efficiency and fossil fuel substitution, which would allow the country to cut its emissions by some 130 million tons, according to the Mexican Carbon Fund (FOMECAR). However, "the CDM has turned into a way of marketing the credits, and has not met the objective of promoting sustainable development," criticized María José Cárdenas, energy and climate change coordinator for the environmental group Greenpeace-Mexico. In Mexico, "there is great potential for energy efficiency. A great deal of energy is consumed and there is a lot of waste," said Miguel Breceda, researcher for the Energy Program at the Autonomous University of Mexico City. The World Bank report, "State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2009," estimated that in 2008 there were 705 million dollars in transaction, with certificates equivalent to 123 million tons of carbon. Latin America represents just four percent of that market. A credit issued in Mexico is traded on the international carbon markets at 11 to 14 dollars, about a third of the value it had in July 2008. In this country, only 45 companies voluntarily reported their carbon emissions and 27 trade their reductions on the market. The evolution of the CDM depends on the negotiation of a Copenhagen treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol after it expires in 2012. "The CDM will have to remain for the countries that are not as developed, the smaller ones, not like Mexico, which can no longer play at being a country in transition," said Cárdenas, who proposes an emissions reduction program for the most polluting sectors, like the petroleum, electrical and cement industries.
Published in Market Mechanisms
Mexico recently began generating electricity from the largest wind farm in Latin America, reports the Associated Press:
Mexico is trying to exploit its rich wind and solar potential after relying almost exclusively on petroleum. With oil production down by 9.2 percent in 2008, Mexico now is turning to foreign companies, mainly Spanish, to tap its renewable riches. "If we don't do something about this problem of climate change it probably could become — I'm sure it already is — one of the biggest threats to humanity," said President Felipe Calderon at the inaugural ceremony attended by about 1,000 residents. But the project hasn't been welcomed by some local residents. The mayor of Juchitan, the municipality where La Ventosa is located, attended the ceremony but called for more benefits for the local community. Protesters argue that foreign companies build the turbines, rent the land, run the project and produce the power for companies like U.S.-owned retailer Wal-Mart. "They promise progress and jobs, and talk about millions in investment in clean energy from the winds that blow through our region," a leftist farm group known as the Assembly in Defense of the Land said in a statement. The group is calling on supporters to "defend the land we inherited from our ancestors." But so far it hasn't been able to stop the project. Spanish energy company Acciona Energia, for its part, says the construction of the project created 850 jobs. It will produce enough energy to power a city of 500,000 people while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 600,000 metric tons each year. Esteban Morras, Acciona board member, said the project could be just the start for Mexico. "This country has great potential for wind development and should take advantage," he said.
Published in Renewable Energy
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