During the upcoming climate negotiations in Glasgow, one of the issues to be addressed is making the climate commitments of the countries that ratified the Paris Agreement and those that emit the most greenhouse gases (GHG) more ambitious.
Mexico is one of these countries. In 2019, it ranked 13th among the world’s highest-emitting countries, contributing around 4 per cent of the carbon emissions produced by the world’s main polluter: China (according to the IEA Atlas of Energy). The reason for this is that Mexico still depends on fossil fuels for its energy supply (87 per cent), as Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government has pursued energy policies that prioritise oil extraction and refining as well as natural gas exploitation.
In addition to its significant contribution to climate change, the country is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming: heatwaves in the northeast, hurricanes and floods in the Caribbean and Pacific.
Despite this situation, Mexico will arrive at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow with a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) updated in 2020 but essentially the same as the climate action plan presented in 2015: to reduce GHG emissions to 22 per cent and black carbon emissions to 51 percent by 2030.
Mexico's climate commitments have been rated "highly insufficient" by the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis promoted by Climate Analytics and the New Climate Institute.
"Mexico has an important responsibility when it comes to climate change, and our NDC is not up to that responsibility. It positions us in a critical role and has caused the country to lose leadership on the matter at the regional level," said Anaid Velasco, Research Manager of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA).
This means that the Mexican NDC is not compatible with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that govern the Paris Agreement. All countries are responsible for climate change but must assume different commitments to reduce emissions according to their responsibility, capacity and track record when it comes to socio-economic problems.
"This principle is used to justify why we do not make our goals more ambitious. The government says, 'well, we are big emitters in Mexico, but as we are a poor country, we cannot be more ambitious.' However, we have to assume responsibility as a high emitter", stated Anaid Velasco during a seminar conducted ahead of COP26 by the Climate Finance Group for Latin America and the Caribbean (GFLAC).
According to the Climate Action Tracker, Mexico and other countries in the region, such as Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, are on the opposite path to what scientific evidence suggests is the correct one, which is not to exceed the 1.5 °C global temperature increase.
Anaid Velasco explains that during the negotiations, diplomats tend to listen to civil society. But the challenge comes when civil society returns from the COP as its goals come into conflict with some of the policies in place in the energy sector today. "Although the impact has become more complex, civil society will continue to work to achieve its goals," promised Velasco.
Yanine Quiroz Pérez is an environmental journalist based in Mexico City. She covers climate change and other environmental stories for Animal Mx, Animal Político, Este País, Botany One and Letras Libres. She is a member of the Mexican Network of Science Journalists and has experience in cross-border journalism.