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Mexico Announces Limits on Global Warming Pollution

Jake Schmidt

Posted December 14, 2008 in Solving Global Warming

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Mexican Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira announced his country's plan to cut global warming pollution 50 percent below 2002 levels in 2050 (as the Associated Press is reporting) at the negotiations in Poland.

But more importantly, the Mexican plan includes establishing a cap-and-trade system that would set emissions limits on certain sectors, such as cement and oil refining, which account for the vast majority of its emissions.  They are calling it a "trans-sectoral trading program" meaning that the different sectors could trade emissions reductions in order to meet the combined sector targets.  This is similar to the approach in the European Union.  It is reportedly planned to come into effect by 2012. 

This plan was signed off by the Mexican Cabinet and the President so it has strong potential to come to fruition as the President has new powers to implement these actions with the recent passage of new laws in Mexico.  Keep your eyes open in the coming months for the actions that they'll put in place to reduce their emissions in oil refining, cement, and other sectors (as discussed here).

While Minister Elvira said Mexico's goal could only be reached with financial and technological help from wealthier nations, he didn't signal that they would do nothing to reduce emissions if they weren't paid for those actions by developed countries.  This was a position that developing countries took a couple of years ago, but has been softened recently.  They've now signaled they would take some action on their own and could go further with the right incentives from developed countries.  So, consider this an "opening bid" for the negotiations next year.

And I have it from good sources that they are now figuring out what level of reductions they could do on their own.  I was working on this at my old job for the Center for Clean Air Policy, so I know that they are getting strong information for that decision.  We'll have to wait and see what details emerge when they announce the details in February 2009.

But here are some hints (from the Center for Clean Air Press Release in Poland): 

  • In cement, reductions can range between 5 to 9 percent by 2020, and can grow to 22 percent below business as usual levels depending on the level of international assistance.
  • There is the potential to reduce emissions in Mexican oil refineries by 5 to 11 percent, and with international assistance emissions reductions can grow to 19 percent by 2020.
  • Mexico can build as much as 3,000 MW of high efficiency cogeneration with loans from the international community that will reduce the country's reliance on fossil-fueled power plants and cut emissions by another 9 million tons, more than double the potential emissions reductions from refineries [emphasis added].

Emissions reductions from developing countries will be a key component of the negotiations next year to get a strong international agreement in Copenhagen.  So, we now have "opening offers" from Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and South Korea.

With "counter offers" from the developed world on their own emissions reduction targets and support for finance and technology to help incentive greater action in developing countries we just might get a strong agreement next year.

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Updated with new information from colleagues at the Center for Clean Air Policy.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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