COP28 exposes Mexico’s energy and climate contradictions

At the Climate Change Summit (COP28) being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Mexico does not have any pavilion, a kind of stand in which governments take advantage of international lights to announce and show their climate progress. Despite being one of the most populated countries in Latin America and generating 23% of the emissions that cause climate change in the region, it did not bring such a large delegation: there is a total of 137 people. To put the issue in perspective, more than 3,000 participants arrived from the giant Brazil and small Honduras surpasses Mexico with 139 people, according to the analysis carried out. Carbon Brief.

And although Mexico is part of the more than 110 countries that signed a commitment to triple the installed capacity of renewable energy between now and 2030 during COP28, the facts indicate that, under the López Obrador Government, there is not much interest in taking a true energy transition ahead: one that, in addition to installing renewable energy, also seeks to leave fossil fuels behind.

“During these five years, not only has the expansion of renewables been stopped, but we have sought to return, at any cost and without environmental or economic considerations, to the path of fossils,” explains Fernanda Ballesteros, manager of the Mexico Program. Natural Resource Governance Institute.

The Government’s green energy flag has been the Sonora project, a photovoltaic park that, when it comes into operation at its maximum capacity, can become the most powerful in Latin America, reaching 1,000 megawatts of capacity. But, at least, in terms of being accountable to climate change, it will do little good for the country to generate this renewable electrical energy if it does not have a plan to get out of oil and gas.

In Mexico, around 70% of the emissions generated by climate change are related to these fossil fuels, with 40% associated with the transportation sector and 35% with the electricity sector. However, the signals that the Government has given, under the excuse of achieving energy sovereignty and avoiding importing oil and gas, is to promote Pemex, the state oil company that produces 95% of hydrocarbons.

According to the 2023 Production Gap Report led by the UN and published days before COP28, in 2021, the federal government injected around $3.5 billion to strengthen Pemex’s finances and, throughout the López Obrador administration, , the tax on the oil company has fallen from 65% to 30%. As for whether the Government has spoken about making a planned reduction in fossil fuels or has raised policies for a just transition, the report is blunt: “No government policies or speeches of this type have been identified,” it says.

Furthermore, as Ana Tamborrel, manager of Justice and Climate Policy of the Mexico Climate Initiative, comments, “among the reforms that have been promoted, there is one that modifies the order of electricity dispatch to prioritize the plants of the state company – the Commission Federal Electricity – which are mostly generated with fossil sources. In other words, Ballesteros points out, “although in the Energy Transition Law [que se publicó bajo el Gobierno de Peña Nieto] Renewable expansion goals were established, what the output of oil and gas would be like was not considered.” This Government, for its part, has not done much to repair it.

The silence of the Government is filled by the parliamentarians

Sitting in the Colombian pavilion, a group of parliamentarians from Latin America called for abandoning fossil fuels. Among them was deputy Mario Alberto Rodríguez Carrillo, from the Citizen Movement party, who took the opportunity to launch a report that gives some clues about how the country could leave fossil fuels behind. The document, signed by him and four other parliamentarians, including deputy Alberto Villa Villegas, from the ruling Morena party, says that, if Mexico follows a path consistent with what it committed to through the Paris Agreement, “it could become in an example of equitable and fair energy transition.”

“When the world is moving towards the reduction of fossil fuels, we are looking for refineries,” says Rodríguez, one of the 32 Mexican deputies who has joined the call of parliamentarians for a future free of fossil fuels. “What we want to demonstrate with this report is that, with national and international financing, we can transition to fewer fossil fuels and cleaner energy.”

Mexico’s climate commitments – updated in 2022 after great social pressure to be more ambitious – seek for the country to reduce its emissions by 35% by 2030 if it does not receive international financing and decrease by 40% if it does. it does. But for this, both experts and parliamentarians warn, “a political will is needed to lead a fair energy transition.”

Parliamentarians are not the only ones seeking to wake up the Government. A group of more than 30 civil society organizations in Mexico also launched a year ago the Decarbonization and Climate Resilience Plan 2024-2030, whose mission is to inform candidates for the presidency of Mexico for the period 2024-2030, how achieve decarbonization. A call that they make almost shouting and that, they hope, will at least be heard by whoever is elected president next year.

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