Mexico president hopefuls face climate test - GulfToday

Mexico president hopefuls face climate test

People walk during a period of high temperatures in Mexico City, Mexico. Reuters

People walk during a period of high temperatures in Mexico City, Mexico. Reuters

It has never been hotter in Mexico – and the women and men who want to run the country have never tried harder to come up with solutions to the climate crisis. Nor ever fallen quite so short, according to analysis of their election policies. A dozen cities across the country have broken temperature records in the past month, reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit)and killing 43 people so far.

The scorching heatwaves have been aggravated by a drought spanning 70% of the country, according to the national water commission, and by widespread power outages due to high demand.

It is little surprise, then, that the climate emergency has been a key policy focus of all three candidates who are running for the presidency in June 2’s election. Whoever wins next month will then lead until 2030, by which time Mexico must hit its various climate targets. But climate experts said all three wannabes for the top job fall short on vision given the job at hand, according to Reuters.

“These are the last six years we will have to limit global warming to 1.5 C and act upon the catastrophic events we are beginning to see, but this is not reflected in their proposals,” said Paula Tussie Berdichevsky, spokesperson for Wildcoast Mexico, a coastal and marine conservation group.

Fears that Mexico will flunk its self-set targets have already been fuelled by the actions of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

In 2022, Mexico increased its target to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 22% to 30% below its usual levels by 2030. Despite the uptick in ambition, the target is still rated “critically insufficient” to make the 1.5 C temperature limit, according to research coalition Climate Action Tracker. Most of the federal budget for climate has also been used on a pet project of the president: building the Maya Train, a tourist railway that cuts through the jungle in southern Mexico.

Cute – but largely ineffective, the experts say.

“These activities do not really contribute to mitigating greenhouse gases,” said Campuzano.

Experts also said imposing budget cuts on key environmental institutions and failing to invest in protected natural areas have also halted progress. Another worry is a rise in violence against environmental defenders - particularly indigenous activists. CEMDA has documented at least 102 murders and 532 attacks on defenders in the first five years of this administration.

As for the future, no candidate has won green plaudits. Claudia Sheinbaum, who leads the election race, is an environmental engineer and ex-member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change so should have form on green policies. Representing the ruling party, she has pledged $13.57 billion in new energy generation projects through 2030.

But, to the experts’ chagrin, she also wants to expand natural gas production, maintain the Sembrando Vida tree planting project and boost state-owned oil company PEMEX.

For one of the opposition coalitions, candidate Xochitl Galvez has vowed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a goal currently outside Mexico’s climate targets – but fails to explain how the country will achieve it.

Opposition candidate Jorge Alvarez Maynez has also made a commitment to boost renewable energy and lower dependency on fossil fuel, without pledging specific targets or any budget. As for the water crisis, the candidates have all promised new laws to make access to water a human right, catch rainwater and to beef up the nation’s water infrastructure.

But for experts, the candidates have failed to consider the clear link between climate change and water scarcity and are peddling old solutions as new. In May, 12 environmental groups including CEMDA and Greenpeace said all candidates lacked the “ambitious and realistic” proposals needed to tackle the climate emergency.


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