In April, the Mexican Legislature passed the developing world’s first climate change bill, and after President Felipe Calderon signs the bill into law, Mexico will be one of a few countries to have a comprehensive climate change law in place. While the bill, known as the General Law on Climate Change, took three years of debate and revisions to create, political parties found common ground and final passage of the bill was considered non-controversial. The House passed the bill 280-10 with one abstention and the Senate passed the bill 78-0. President Calderon has been a global advocate for action on climate change as the country suffers through a difficult drought. In fact, President Calderon has ordered government agencies to prepare for a future of more severe weather.
The legislation establishes a high-level climate change commission, a climate fund, and mandatory emissions reporting and registry. The bill aims for a 30% reduction in emissions growth measured against a “business as usual” pathway by 2020, and 50% by 2050 (below 2000 levels). These goals will not reduce absolute emissions but instead reduce the rate at which emissions rise. To achieve these goals, the bill also requests the country’s energy ministers to develop a system of incentives by 2020 that favors the use of renewable energy. In addition, it establishes goals for increasing electricity generation from renewable sources, including an aspirational target of 35% of electricity generation to come from renewable sources by 2024.
The General Law on Climate Change also phases out fossil fuel subsidies and as the sixth largest oil exporter in the world, cutting fossil fuel subsidies may have been a concern for some. However, state-owned Petrõleos Mexicanos is the sole oil producer in Mexico and according to the 2011 World Energy Outlook, Mexico’s oil production has declined over the last decade and is projected to continue to decline due to the slow pace of new developments. Some legislators see promise in the opportunity for reducing development and reliance on fossil fuels. As quoted by the BBC, Porfirio Munoz Ledo of the center-left Democratic Revolution Party and chair of the Foreign Affairs Commission said, “Mexico is aware this is the end of the oil era, so we need to implement this fiscal reform – and if we go through it, we’ll be able to do without this oil.”
Finally, the bill requires international financial support to deliver its goals, as is mandated in the United Nations climate convention. The Cancun summit agreed to establish an international Green Climate Fund that is supposed to provide much of that support. However, details of the Fund have yet to be finalized and it is a long way from receiving the promised funds. Certainly the limited growth of the global economy has reduced the coffers of all nations, likely making them less willing to submit promised monies to such funds. Whether Mexico would get the financial support it plans on is questionable. Beyond financial support, some worry that enforcing the bill may prove to be difficult.
While all laws face implementation challenges, the fact that Mexican legislators created the political will to pass comprehensive climate change legislation is both encouraging and a model the U.S. will hopefully follow in the short term.
Emily is a Senior Research Analyst with Portfolio 21 Investments. She has 9 years of experience in the environmental field.