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As Host of Climate Talks, Mexico Faces Domestic Energy Paradox

Mexico champions climate solutions but is also expanding its oil industry and car ownership

By Maria Gallucci

Nov 4, 2010

MEXICO CITY – In the run up to this month’s COP16 meeting in Cancún, Mexico has poised itself as an eager champion of climate change initiatives by rallying its Latin American counterparts to bring environmental policies to the top of their political agendas.
 
Rather than bolster its role as liaison, however, the country should first remedy its own domestic policy dilemma, local environment and energy experts argue. Even while Mexico outlines ambitious goals for climate change, the government is boosting the struggling economy by expanding the state-run oil industry and promoting car ownership.
 
“If Mexico wants to be a leader in the fight against climate change, it has to profoundly rectify its current policies for the energy sector instead of taking the country down the same road of fossil fuel consumption,” said Gustavo Ampugnani of Greenpeace México.
Mexico pledges to reduce its GHG emissions by 50 percent from 2002 levels in 2050 by investing in clean technologies such as wind and solar. The country currently produces 650 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, or 1.5 percent of the global total.

Renewable energies compose 3.3 percent of Mexico’s overall power generation and are expected to increase to 7 percent in 2012, a rise facilitated by the 2008 energy reform bill that allows for private investment in a state-controlled industry. In wind energy, Mexico’s largest renewable sector, the Secretary of Energy (Sener) aims to increase wind-generating capacity to 3,000 megawatts (MW) by 2014, a 600 percent rise from its current capacity.

Yet the government has been relatively slow to outline its plan to achieve such targets, according to the non-profit Mexican Wind Energy Association (AMDEE). A national inventory on renewable energy potential—which helps attract private investment—is more than three years in the making, and the 2008 law’s conceptual framework does not detail plans for public investment or how to bring turbine power to the national power grid or include small businesses or homeowners, the organization says.

Public Investment in State-Owned Oil Impedes Growth of Renewables

Ampugnani said that solar energy is still an untapped resource, as nearly all of big-scale public investments are going to wind projects, such as the $350 million allotted earlier this year for the Rumorosa Wind Park in Mexicali, Baja California.

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