Five years ago, Mexico was the first developing country to present a plan to reduce carbon emissions in the run-up to the historic Paris Agreement. Last month, he joined climate die-hard Russia and Brazil in failing to step up efforts to combat global warming.
Mexico’s updated proposal to the United Nations culminated two years of environmental setback under the nationalist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Members of the Paris agreement are expected to raise their targets every five years, but Mexico instead kept its goal of reducing emissions by 22% by 2030, compared to usual measures.
The decision reflects the approach that López Obrador, known as AMLO, has taken towards the environment since he came to power in a landslide victory in 2018.
It cut off a booming renewable energy market, injected money into state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, and promoted two major infrastructure projects that environmentalists see as ecological disasters.
The government’s position has been “To hell with emissions, to hell with the environment, to hell with air quality”Said Jeremy Martin, vice president for energy and sustainability at the Institute of the Americas.
“There is simply nothing you can point out to me that makes me feel confident in their ability to be more than a poor steward of their environment and emissions profile.”.
Born in an impoverished oil city in the southeastern state of Tabasco, AMLO has bet his political capital to restore Pemex to its role from the 1970s as an important engine of the Mexican economy. Pemex and the state power company Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) are at the center of their plan for a Mexico that is self-sufficient in energy matters.
His track record gives him the rare distinction of being a leader with leftist roots whose environmental policy is closer to right-leaning climate change deniers such as outgoing US President Donald Trump and Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro. Unlike Bolsonaro, who has advocated opening the Amazon rainforest to mining and agriculture, AMLO has embraced green rhetoric, even when his nationalist resource agenda takes precedence.
The president’s actions reflect his vision for Mexico, which can be summed up as returning the country to control of the two main state energy companies, said Rodolfo Rueda, a lawyer at Thompson & Knight LLP, whose clients include renewable energy companies.
This momentum has come at the cost of a booming clean energy sector. The year before AMLO took office, renewable energy projects had some of the cheapest electricity prices in the world.
But the president canceled more auctions and changed the rules to help the state-owned company maintain its market share. Some 200 wind farms, solar panels, natural gas plants and other mostly private projects are in limbo after he ordered regulators to favor the power giant and Pemex.
Protectionist policies have upset businessmen and environmentalists. Dozens of renewable energy companies have sought to curb regulatory changes that harm their investments in Mexico. The antitrust agency Cofece and the activist group Greenpeace won recent injunctions on actions that would prevent the advance of new clean power plants.
Mexico is committed to protecting the environment while closing the country’s inequality gaps, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources said in an emailed statement. He cited the measures taken, including guaranteeing access to water for the poorest in the country, stopping mining concessions and the sustainable use of natural resources and livestock.
When asked how Mexico plans to meet its legal commitment to produce 35% of its energy through renewable energy by 2024, AMLO said in a daily press conference last Thursday that the country will increase its hydroelectric capacity with the update of 60 floors.
While using water to generate energy does not generate carbon emissions, damming can release large amounts of trapped carbon.
AMLO argued that critics of his energy policy are cynically using the environment to attack the government. There is a lot of deception. I would tell them that they have grabbed onto the clean energy banner in the same way that they hold onto the banner of feminism or human rights. Since when do conservatives care about the environment?