The evolution of climate politics in North America has been central to shaping the course of climate action at the international level. The federal, state, and even city-level climate policy decisions of the United States—the largest historical and per capita emitter of greenhouse gases—have both significant biophysical and political consequences. Likewise, Canada, through its 2002 decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and its more recent acknowledgment that it will not be able to meet its Kyoto target, is playing an active role in climate politics. As a result of the prominent role played by its northern neighbors, climate policy in Mexico is often overlooked.
The premise for this article is that Mexico’s political prominence in the climate arena is sure to increase over the next decades. First, regardless of the future of the Kyoto regime, international climate policy is likely move in the direction of binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets for developing countries. As the only two members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that did not take on targets under the Kyoto Protocol, Mexico and South Korea will be at the forefront of negotiations regarding developing-country targets. Second, while the case of Mexico is certainly not representative of all developing countries, understanding the dynamics of climate politics in Mexico can be a first step to building of base of knowledge of climate politics in non-Annex 1 countries. Third, given the extensive economic integration and institutional basis for collaboration, the North American region is a likely site for piloting a climate regime that integrates developed and developing economies.
|Table 1: Key Energy and Climate Statistics for Mexico, Canada, and the United States|
|*Population——2006||107 million||33 million||298 million|
|*GDP PPP——2005 (US$)||$1.068 trillion||$1.08 trillion||$12.41 trillion|
|*GDP official fx rate——2005 (US$)||$669.5 billion||$1.023 trillion||$12.47 trillion|
|*GDP per capita——2005 (US$)||$10,100||$32,900||$42,000|
|CO2 Emissions——1999 (million metric tons)||358||489||5,584|
|CO2 emission/capita——1999 (metric tons per person)||3.7||16.0||19.9|
|Total energy consumption——1999 (metric tons of oil equivalent)||149 million||241 million||2.2 billion|
|Energy Intensity/GDP PPP——1999 (metric tons of oil equivalent/US$)||169||314||264|
|Sources: (CIA 2006; WRI 2003)|
Focusing on Mexico also contributes to a discussion of North American climate politics by highlighting some commonalities across borders (see Table 1 for an overview of climate and energy statistics for Mexico, the United States, and Canada). In particular, Mexico and Canada may have more in common on the climate issue than first appears. Both are oil-producing countries whose economies are relatively energy inefficient and for whom the United States is the primary export market. Both countries are potentially very vulnerable to the effects of climate change; Mexico due to widespread poverty and high levels of biological diversity, and Canada because of the vulnerability of social and ecological communities in the Arctic due to warming. Finally, in both countries, domestic climate policy choices are likely to be influenced by the domestic and international climate policy choices of the United States.
The core of this article is a detailed, historical analysis of Mexican climate change politics. The discussion of the evolution of Mexican climate politics will be structured around developments in four societal arenas (scientific/research community, government, industry, and civil society), and I highlight four key features of the political terrain that have shaped the evolution of climate change politics in Mexico. First, the initial agenda for action on climate change was set by climate scientists in the national university and by bureaucrats in the national environmental ministry. Their early control of the issue had the path-dependent effect of establishing Mexico as a supporter of international action on climate change. Second, with the rise in the international prominence of the Unite Nations climate negotiations, a wider array of government ministries began to engage in the climate policy process and bureaucratic politics impeded forward action. From 1995 to date, Mexico has followed a stop-and-go pattern of climate policymaking. Third, in contrast to the United States and Canada, industry actors, in particular Petróleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s national oil company, have been advocates for precautionary action on climate change. And fourth, equally surprisingly, Mexican environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been largely absent from the climate debates. After a detailed discussion of these four features of the terrain of Mexican climate politics, the article will conclude with an assessment of the future prospects of climate policy in Mexico.
The Terrain and Evolution of Mexican Climate Politics
Scientific Community: Issue Definition and Initial Agenda Setting
Interest in climate change in Mexico dates back to the early 1990s. A defining feature of the climate issue at that time was its institutional home. Interest in climate change was initially concentrated among a small group of scientists and environmental bureaucrats at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the national university, and at the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE), the research branch of the federal environmental agency, the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT).
A concerted climate change research effort was initiated after the negotiation of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Through a collaborative effort, INE and the UNAM Centro de Ciencias Atmósphera (CCA) established a Programa Nacional Científico sobre Cambio Climático Global, that is, a national scientific program on global climate change, as a means to coordinate dispersed research relevant to the climate change issue. These efforts received a further boost via financial support from the U.S. Country Studies Program (CSP), which provided financial and technical assistance to developing countries to support efforts to address climate change. Mexico’s application for support was funded during the first round of applications in October 1993. The Mexico country study process was coordinated by INE and UNAM, and information was generated on three topics: 1) a greenhouse gas inventory for Mexico; 2) climate change and greenhouse gas emissions scenarios; and 3) improving upon previous studies of Mexico’s vulnerability to climate change impacts.
The Mexico country studies process produced both technical and political results. The short-term outputs of the process were three workshops in April 1994, May 1995, and January 1996, presenting a range of research papers on inventories, scenarios, and vulnerability. The country studies work served as the basis of a summary report on vulnerability studies as well as Mexico’s first national greenhouse gas inventory, published in December 1995 and subsequently submitted to the UNFCCCas Mexico's initial national communication in November 1997.
Politically, the country studies process acted to centralize the group of scientists and bureaucrats working on climate change in Mexico. The contributors to various workshops and reports were housed within INE, various programs at UNAM, and the Instituto Mexicano de Petróleo (IMP), a research institute focusing on oil. Climate change as an issue was claimed by these organizations. Key individuals turned their status in the research community into leadership roles in the policy arena. For example, in 1995, after the UNFCCC took force, UNAM Professor Carlos Gay Garcia, a lead convener of the research effort supported by the U.S. Country Studies Program, became the lead expert on the Mexico delegation to the UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COPs) and the head of delegation at the Subsidiary Body meetings.
Government: Inter-ministerial Competition and Stop-and-Go Policymaking
|Table 2: Key Events/Phases in the Evolution of Mexican Governmental Climate Politics|
Phase 1: 1995-1996
Scientists dominate policy process
1995—Carlos Gay at UNAM establishes an “Ad-Hoc Group” to coordinate interministerial dialogue on climate change
May 1995—Second U.S. Country Studies Workshop
September 1995—INE publishes Preliminary National Inventory of Greenhouse Gases
January 1996—Third U.S. Country Studies Workshop
Phase 2: 1997
Jump in political prominence of climate issue
April 1997—”Ad-Hoc Group” is reorganized into a formal Inter-Ministerial Committee for Climate Change
September 1997—SENER begins to engage in climate policy debates
September 1997—Mexico publishes First National Communication under UNFCCC
September 1997—Mexico hosts 12th plenary session of IPCC.
December 1997—Kyoto Protocol negotiated
Phase 3: 1998-2000
Upsurge in momentum with ratification of Kyoto Protocol
1998—SEMARNAT supports ratification of Kyoto Protocol
1999—SENER opposes ratification of Kyoto Protocol on climate change
December 1999—Pemex announces proactive climate policy
April 29, 2000—Mexican Senate votes to ratify Kyoto Protocol
Phase 4: 2000-2001
Decline in interest in climate change under new president
August 2000—Vicente Fox elected to presidency
December 2000—President Fox assumes office
March 2001—U.S. President George W. Bush withdraws United States from Kyoto Protocol
Phase 5: 2002
Upsurge in interest with European ratification of Kyoto Protocol
Spring 2002—Fox appoints Victor Lichtinger as Secretary of the Environment
May 2002—EU ratifies Kyoto Protocol
October 2002—discussion re creating a Mexican CDM office
Phase 6: 2003-2005
Domestic action bogged down due to inter-ministry competition
March 2003—Bilateral Working Group on Climate Change between United States and Mexico
January 2004—Mexico establishes national Climate Change Office
December 2005—Joint statement on climate change cooperation between Canada and Mexico
With the entry-into-force of the UNFCCC, the profile of the climate issue shifted from being perceived as primarily a scientific issue to being viewed in the context of broad policy considerations. 1995 effectively marks the beginning of federal climate politics in Mexico. The overall stance of the Mexican government has been that climate change is a serious environmental issue, and that Mexico, in aggregate, faces a greater risk from climate change impacts than from adverse economic effects of greenhouse gas regulation. However, this generally supportive policy position masks significant disagreement between different federal agencies and significant fluctuations over time in federal government interest in the climate issue. Table 2 identifies six key periods that have been markers in the evolution of Mexican climate politics at the federal level. Each of these periods has either advanced or retarded building momentum for climate regulation within the Mexican government.
In the first phase of Mexican federal climate politics, scientists from UNAM and INE stepped into the policy arena. In 1995, UNAM professor Gay Garcia created an “Ad-Hoc Group” to coordinate inter-ministerial dialogue on climate change. This group prepared the Mexican policy position, in advance of the Conferences of the Parties, and was dominated by representatives from UNAM, INE, and SEMARNAT. This early period was one of building momentum that lasted until 1997, when, in the lead-up to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, climate change became a hot political issue.
The second key event was the jump in the political profile of the climate issue in 1997. In the build-up to the Kyoto negotiations in December of 1997, the international climate negotiations process gained much higher public and political salience in the international arena, and, consequently, it began to be recognized as a much more important issue within Mexico. At that time, Mexico published its first national communication under the UNFCCC and hosted the twelfth plenary session of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). The effect of the shift from scientific to political issue was a widening in the field of actors and agencies that perceived themselves as having a stake in the climate policy process. In 1997 climate change became an issue of concern to the ministries of agriculture and rural development, commerce and industrial development, communications and transport, energy, and social development. Among these ministries, the Secretaría de Energía (SENER) in particular began to play a much more active role in climate discussions.
SENER’s intensified engagement in climate policy signficiantly impacted national climate policy in Mexico. Observers date serious SENER involvement in the climate issue to early 1997. The COP 3 negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997 was the first time a representative from SENER was included in the Mexican delegation to the United Nations (UN) climate change negotiations since the first round of the negotiations in 1991. By 1998, several internal documents had been generated by SENER addressing energy and climate change issues. SENER was focused primarily on the potential adverse effects of international climate regulation on Mexico’s oil economy. At the time, most oil-exporting countries were vocal opponents to action on climate change. Bureaucrats in SENER echoed this policy stance and have generally voiced opposition to climate regulation. Evidence of the consequences of both SENER’s involvement in climate policy debates and the general politicization of the climate issue can be seen in the fate of UNAM Professor Carlos Guy’s “Ad Hoc Group” for inter-ministerial dialogue. In 1997, the informal group was converted into a formal Comité Intersecretarial de Cambio Climático, with an expanded list of participating ministries. At the same time, Guy Garcia was replaced by Julia Carabias Lillo from SEMARNAP as the lead coordinator of the Mexican climate policy process.
The third key event in governmental climate politics was Mexico’s decision to ratify of the Kyoto Protocol, a decision made on April 29, 2000 by the Mexican Senate. The decision to ratify was the result of an intense struggle between SEMARNAT and SENER. At the time, SENER was arguing against Mexican ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, while SEMARNAT was advocating for climate regulation. President Zedillo made the deciding choice to ratify, favoring the environment ministry. Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) was a key actor in this struggle. One might expect Pemex to have followed SENER’s lead on climate change because of the close structural relationship between the two organizations. Formally, Pemex, along with the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), the national electricity company, and Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LFC), the electricity and power company serving Mexico City, are very large and semi-independent sub-groups within SENER. Despite this close relationship, Pemex and SENER developed their climate policies relatively independently. While SENER opposed action on climate change, Pemex was an advocate for action on climate change, even co-hosting climate change workshops with SEMARNAT in December 1999 (see below for additional information on Pemex’s climate policy).
As a non-Annex 1 party, Mexico’s 2000 ratification of the Kyoto Protocol resulted in few additional obligations. Moreover, at the global level, the prospects in April 2000 of the Kyoto Protocol’s entry-into-force were very uncertain. None of the major Annex-1 countries (including the European Union countries, the United States, or Japan) had yet ratified the Protocol. Nevertheless, domestic ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Mexico sent a signal of moving forward on climate regulation. In line with this signal, SEMARNAT published a National Strategy of Climate Action. However, Mexico’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol did not build significant momentum for action on climate change because the decision to ratify was made towards the end of Zedillo’s six-year term and the National Climate Program was not carried forward under the following administration.
The fourth key political event in governmental climate politics was thus the election to the Mexican presidency of Vicente Fox in August 2000, a position he assumed in December of that year. Not surprisingly, as the first non-Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI) president in 71 years, environmental issues were not at the top of Fox’s agenda. Moreover, among environmental issues, climate change was of low priority to Fox’s environmental staff, as the issue had suffered several political setbacks in the international arena. Not only had the November 2000 round of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP 6 in The Hague) collapsed because of disagreement between the United States and the European Union, but climate change advocates in Mexico received a further blow in March of 2001, when U.S. President George W. Bush withdrew the United States completely from the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. A cornerstone of Mexico’s interest in the Kyoto Protocol was access to the Kyoto mechanisms, specifically the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Before the U.S. pull-out, the size of the CDM at that time was estimated at US$2-4 billion, translating to a price of US$10-20 per ton of carbon, with the United States being the main purchaser of emissions. The expectation was that the United States would look to its southern neighbor for CDM opportunities. With the pull-out of the United States, the expected size of the CDM became dramatically reduced and prospects for a U.S.-Mexico emissions trading partnership vanished.
While the U.S. refusal to ratify Kyoto reduced the anticipated size of the CDM fund, the EU ratification of Kyoto enhanced CDM possibilities in Mexico. This fifth key event in Mexican federal climate politics occurred in spring of 2002. Fox’s appointed Secretary of the Environment, Victor Lichtinger, had been a member of the Mexican delegation to five rounds of the international UN climate negotiations (INCs 1 to 5 part 1), but it was not until after a presidential visit to Europe in the spring of 2002 that Lichtinger started raising the profile of the climate issue in Mexico. Lichtinger met with the heads of European and EU environment ministers during the push for EU ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The EU’s decision to ratify was announced in May 2002. With EU ratification, the CDM once again became a viable mechanism to attract foreign investment into Mexico’s energy and environmental sectors. Climate discussions within Mexico’s federal government ministries in 2002 focused on the creation of a national climate change office, or more specifically, a national CDM project approval authority.
Little concrete action came from the flurry of activity in 2002, and the sixth and current period of Mexican climate politics is characterized by little real progress. In part, the lack of progress is due to competition between federal agencies over control of the climate issue. INE, which played a lead role historically in the development of Mexico's climate policy, was divested of its policy functions in 2000 and re-tasked as a research institute. Today, it maintains the responsibility for generating the greenhouse gas inventory data and submitting Mexico's national communications to the UNFCCC. Policy decisions continue to be deliberated via the Comité Intersecretarial de Cambio Climático (Intersecretarial Committee on Climate Change), which includes among its members seven ministries (agriculture, transport, social development, environment, energy, economy, and foreign affairs). SEMARNAT is the coordinating ministry and also houses a department of climate change projects, which acts as the designated national authority for CDM projects. However, this department within SEMARNAT does not seem to play the prominent role envisioned in 2002 for a Mexican Climate Change Office. Most new activities on climate change appear to be driven by bilateral initiatives. In 2003, the United States and Mexico pledged to strengthen bilateral cooperation on climate change, creating a Bilateral Working Group on Climate Change. Likewise, Canada and Mexico signed a joint statement on climate change cooperation during COP/MOP 1 in December 2005.
Industry: Petróleos Mexicanos as an Industry Pioneer
A striking feature of Mexican climate politics is the active engagement of certain key industries in the climate policy debates. As mentioned above, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s national oil company, was a vocal advocate for action on climate change from 1999 to 2002. Pemex is also the first and only developing-country oil company to have taken on a company-wide carbon dioxide emissions reduction target and to pilot an internal corporate emissions trading system. More recently, 15 Mexican companies, mostly from energy-intensive sectors, were recognized for participating in a greenhouse gas inventory initiative and for publicly reporting their emissions. The following paragraphs will describe in detail the origins of Pemex’ proactive climate policy. We focus on the Pemex case because the company’s engagement with climate change issues became path-setting for the Mexican private sector.
Pemex’s interest in climate change dates back to 1995 when the company cooperated by providing information for Mexico’s first national communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Pemex in-house environmental magazine, Gaceta Ecológica, first included an article on climate change in its September 1997 issue in the lead-up to Kyoto Protocol negotiations in December 1997. The next step was the December 1999 launch of its new and improved environmental division, where Pemex first publicly announced a climate-friendly policy at a conference jointly organized by Pemex, SEMARNAT, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and UNAM. The company published its first official climate policy statement in April of 2000 with the launch of the 1999 Annual Report on Safety, Health, and Environment—the first of its kind. The report announced Pemex’s proactive policy on greenhouse gas emissions and provided information on the generation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Pemex operations. Estimated emissions for 1999 amounted to almost 40 million tons of CO2—approximately equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of Ireland. The following year, Pemex announced a corporate emissions reduction target, pledging to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by one percent by the end of 2001, and developed an internal emissions trading program. To date, Pemex is the sole nationally-owned oil company from a developing country that has adopted a company-wide carbon dioxide emissions reduction target.
How did Pemex come to adopt a proactive climate policy? Pemex is proud of its position as the sixth largest oil company in the world and, despite state ownership, strives to mimic the management techniques of the global oil majors. It has a documented history of surveying industry best practices and then tailoring them to Pemex’s situation in Mexico. Pemex’s climate program showcases how the company’s executives took their cues from the international oil and climate governance communities and then formulated a Pemex climate policy. In particular, Pemex acted as “close follower” of British Petroleum (BP), the oil major that Pemex managers identified as the industry leader in the climate arena.
A close analysis of the components of Pemex’s climate policy reveals similarities to BP’s climate program. In a 1999 speech, the president of Pemex gave credit to BP for setting the standard for environmental management in the oil industry and for inspiring the Pemex program. The policies shared by Pemex and BP were facilitated by Environmental Defense (ED), a U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Ultimately, Pemex joined BP, Shell, and other companies in the ED Partnership for Climate Action. The Partnership brought together companies willing to take on corporate greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets and that were also interested in emissions trading.
Four conditions facilitated Pemex’s “importing” of its climate policy. First, it is unlikely that Pemex would have pursued a climate-friendly policy if Mexico had been an adamant opponent to action on climate change at the international level. Despite the stop-and-go character of Mexican climate politics, Mexico has been an advocate for action on climate change within the international community. Second, Pemex was not predisposed to reject a climate-friendly policy because its initial contact to international climate issues was made via SEMARNAT, the environmental ministry, rather than SENER, the energy ministry. The initial seeds of Pemex’s climate policy can be found in the company’s early collaboration with environmental scientists at INE and UNAM. The two communities were brought into contact via the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory project, mandated by the 1992 UNFCCC. Had this contact not been initiated, the most likely outcome is that Pemex would have adopted SENER’s more adversarial approach to climate regulation.
Third, Pemex managers became receptive to environmental initiatives and were able to justify the climate-friendly policy via pre-existing business objectives. Although the particular content of Pemex’s climate policy came from the international community, Pemex justified the policy via its own business needs. In the late 1990s, Pemex was under strong pressure to reform it operations, focusing particularly on improved operational efficiency and access to foreign investment. Pemex’s climate policy addressed each of these objectives. Most of the projects identified through the internal emissions trading system have been efficiency projects. Likewise, CDM projects were promoted as a means to channel foreign investment. CDM projects bypass the constitutional restriction by being defined as the “the sale of environmental services.”
Since 2002, Pemex has backed away from its active engagement with climate change. The ED Partnership for Climate Action is no longer active, and Pemex did not follow-up its one percent reduction target with a more stringent ten percent reduction target, as was being discussed in 2002. That year also marked the last year that Pemex published a corporate annual report on health, safety, and environment. Nevertheless, Pemex generated interest early on in climate change among industry actors in Mexico and Latin America and among state-owned oil companies.
Pemex’s support for action on climate change weighed in Zedillo’s 2000 decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The Mexican government has worked to ensure that Pemex projects are eligible under the CDM rules. Moreover, the government followed Pemex’s lead to develop an interest in emissions-trading. In September of 2002, preliminary discussions were held within the environment and energy ministries regarding the expansion of the emissions trading system to include CFE, the national electricity company, along with Pemex, and even the idea of a national trading system. Although these discussions did not materialize in a concrete program, a recent private-sector initiative is a positive sign. In 2004, Mexico adopted a corporate greenhouse gas protocol developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Jointly with SEMARNAT, WRI and WBCSD launched the Mexico Greenhouse Gas Program under which 15 Mexican companies compiled corporate greenhouse gas inventories—the necessary precursor to emissions trading. Twelve additional companies are still in the process of compiling their inventories.
Civil Society: Climate Change Is Not a Priority Issue
Within North America, the Mexico case is unique for the absence of a civil society-led campaign around climate change. The NGO community in Mexico is vibrant, yet still in the early stages of its development. Delgado identifies the 1980s and particularly the battle against the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant as the beginning of a self-identified environmental NGO community in Mexico. This community continued to thrive and expand in preparation for the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) and beyond; however, it has not mobilized around the climate issue. A combination of factors accounts for the fact that no Mexican NGO has launched a climate campaign.
Most importantly, climate change is not a priority environmental issue for environmental NGOs in Mexico. Mexico is not a major global greenhouse gas emitter. Based on 1995 greenhouse gas emissions, Mexico ranked fourteenth, between South Korea and South Africa, contributing just 1.48 percent to total global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the Mexican government has generally been forward thinking on the climate issue. In addition, there is little public pressure for action on climate change. Although there is no rigorous public opinion data documenting public awareness and understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change, anecdotal evidence suggests that the issue is as misunderstood in Mexico as it is in most other countries. For example, during a national evening news broadcast about Environmental Secretary Lichtinger’s visit to the European Union in April of 2002, the anchor read text regarding the ozone hole and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as the main part of a segment on global warming.
Most Mexican NGOs focus their efforts on environmental concerns that are perceived as more pressing and deserving of attention than climate change. They focus on local issues, either “green” conservation issues or “brown” contamination and pollution concerns. Green-issue NGOs have a high profile in Mexico and work on conservation projects through collaborations between local community groups and large international NGOs, such as Conservation International and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). As one of 12 “mega-diverse” countries, Mexico is a biodiversity “hotspot”. Brown-issue NGOs are generally focused on local pollution and do not link with international campaigns. For example, in the oil-producing state of Tabasco, there is a long history of activism focused on the adverse environmental effects of oil extraction and refining activities. The target of activism is Pemex. In Mexico City, the primary issue of concern is local air pollution and the focus is on redesigning the city’s transportation infrastructure. These activities are recognized as generating climate benefits, but the driver for action is local air pollution concerns.
Among the Mexican environmental NGO community, there are three groups well-positioned to potentially organize a climate campaign. They are Greenpeace Mexico, the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), and the Unión de Grupos Ambientalistas (UGA). These three groups employ staff with advanced degrees, can access the international environmental advocacy community, and have the relevant experience in Mexican politics; in other words, they have the necessary resources and expertise to campaign on climate change. However, policy directors and campaigners from Greenpeace Mexico, CEMDA, and UGA all reiterated that that climate change is simply not a priority issue for their organizations.
Future Prospects for Climate Action in Mexico
Understanding the history and evolution of climate politics in the scientific, political, economic, and civil society arenas sheds light on future prospects for climate action in Mexico. First, Mexican interest in the climate issue is driven by the actions of Annex 1 countries, including but not limited to the United States and Canada. Second, a primary barrier to federal action is inter-ministerial competition over ownership of the climate issue. Third, the most active site for entrepreneurial action on climate protection is emerging in the private sector.
Climate activities in state and non-state arenas in the United States and in other Annex-1 countries have played a significant role in Mexican climate politics. The U.S. Country Studies Program was central to organizing Mexico’s climate research community, a constituency that played a galvanizing role in Mexico’s initial response to climate change. The evolution of federal climate politics in Mexico also showcases the importance of connections to Annex-1 countries, particularly the United States. At the federal level, action on climate change in Mexico has followed a stop-and-go pattern. After building momentum by voting to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in early 2000, action decelerated with the election of a new president in August of 2000 and came to a standstill when the United States announced that it was withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in April 2001. Interest in the issue was reignited only when the European Union and Japan ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. Finally, activity in the United States has been a key part of climate action in Mexico’s private sector. Both the Pemex climate change initiatives and the Mexico Greenhouse Gas Program followed a common organizational pattern. They are the products of collaboration between business actors in Mexico and U.S.-based environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Unfortunately, the current state of international and domestic climate politics in the United States and Canada makes significant change in Mexico’s climate policy unlikely. Climate change was not a key issue during the July 2006 presidential election. Neither the winning candidate, Felipe Calderón, nor his main rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, focused on or made climate change a central plank of his campaign. Only a decision by the United States to re-engage in the Kyoto process or a decision by Canada to meet its Kyoto target via significant Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) investment in Mexico would drive renewed interest in the climate issue in Mexico. If this were to happen, action on climate change in Mexico would still face the obstacle of inter-ministerial competition over the issue. Mexico’s current course on climate change is being set by an inter-ministerial dialogue at the federal level, which is characterized by competition between ministries, particularly the environmental ministry (SEMARNAT) and the energy ministry (SENER).
Given inter-ministerial competition at the federal level and the absence of civil society interest in climate change, the private sector remains as the most promising arena in which to promote bottom-up action on climate change in Mexico in the short term. With the upsurge in subnational climate change activities in the United States, there are many prospects for partnerships; particularly promising are activities in the transportation and energy sectors that link U.S. NGOs with business and industry actors in Mexico. Such activities could build on pre-existing environmental collaborations at sub-national administrative levels, such as air pollution control activities in Mexico City or on the U.S.-Mexico border region. To date, Mexico has not yet seen the emergence of vibrant city and state-level climate politics, which are the focus of action in the United States and Canada.
- For an overview and history of general environmental policy in Mexico, please refer to the OECD environmental performance review for Mexico (OECD 1998). The most comprehensive compilation of research and policy analyses addressing climate change in Mexico was assembled by researchers at the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (Martinez and Fernandez Bremauntz 2004).
- SEMARNAT was established in 1994 as the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales, y Pesca (SEMARNAP). The name change dates to 2000 (SEMARNAT 2002). Prior to 1994, environmental issues were under the purview of the Sub-secretaría de Desarollo Urbano y Ecología (SEDUE), the ministry of urban development and ecology, established in 1982. In 1992, SEDUE was transformed into the Secretaría de Desarollo Social (SEDESOL), the ministry of social development. At the same time, two independent technical bodies were created to support SEDESOL: the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE), an environmental research institute, and the Procuraduría Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente (PROFEPA), an environmental enforcement agency (OECD 1998).
- Pemex was a late entry into the climate change field when compared to the Western oil majors. Exxon, BP, and Shell all began to engage with the climate issue in the late 1980s.
- The Greenpeace Mexico office campaigns on conservation and pollution issues, mobilizing local groups as well as resources from the international Greenpeace organization.
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