I was pleased to see that late last week, the Mexican Senate unanimously passed domestic climate legislation that sets a target of cutting Mexico’s carbon emissions by 30 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2030, and 50 percent by 2050. The law, passed earlier in the House by a vote of 280 to 10, now goes to President Calderón for his signature.
In addition to the carbon targets, the law also sets an aspirational goal of generating 35 percent of Mexico’s electricity from renewable sources by 2024, calls for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and establishes a high-level climate change commission, involving the relevant government ministries, to oversee the country’s climate policy going forward. For President Calderón, who has been very engaged on the climate issue internationally, passage of this legislation is a signal achievement and comes just months before he leaves office on July 1st.
As the world’s eleventh-largest economy, and eleventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Mexico’s action will have an impact on the global stage, disproving the belief of some that economic development is inextricably linked to ever-growing carbon emissions.
Of course, passage of the law was not without controversy or opposition; the country’s iron and steel trade association, CANACERO (Cámara Nacional de la Industria del Hierro y del Acero) had warned legislators in recent months that the measure could hurt the industry’s international competitiveness and lead to job losses. But as Mexico suffers through its worst drought in over 70 years, growing public concern about the impacts of climate change helped counter such industry pressure; last year’s Nielsen global sustainability survey found that a full 93 percent of Mexicans are concerned about climate change. Clearly, climate denialism isn’t making inroads south of the border.
On April 2nd, President Obama hosted President Calderón and Prime Minister Harper of Canada in Washington at the annual summit of North American leaders. The summit declaration included a pledge that the three countries would “continue our efforts to advance a lasting global solution to the challenge of climate change.” It’s now clear that Mexico is serious about this; what about the other two countries?
Under Prime Minister Harper’s “leadership,” Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol and continues to expand carbon-intensive oil production from tar sands. Here in the U.S., of course, national action to address the climate threat has stalled out in the face of well-financed industry lobbying and disinformation campaigns in recent years and the embrace of climate denialism by many Republicans, including most of the party’s recent presidential candidates.
The next North American Leaders’ Summit will be held in Mexico in 2013; perhaps President Calderón’s successor — whoever he or she may be — can tutor his or her two North American counterparts on what a real “solution to the challenge of climate change” looks like.
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