During the COP17 I caught up with Dr. Fernando Tudela Abad, one of
Mexico’s foremost climate change experts and a high ranking official of
the Mexican delegation. Dr. Tudela is Under Secretary of Environmental
Policy and Planning at the Ministry of the Environment and Natural
Resource and also chairs the expert group of the OECD on climate change.
Dr. Tudela explained how Mexico’s active involvement in the climate
negotiations is based on national concerns over the country’s
considerable vulnerability to climate-related disasters. In 2010
Mexico’s Foreign Secretary, Patricia Espinoza, remarked before the
COP16, ‘we estimate that 15 percent of our national territory, 68
percent of our population and 71 per cent of our GDP is highly exposed
to the impacts of climate change.’
Last year Mexico faced its worst drought in 70 years
with the lack of rainfall affecting almost 70 percent of the country.
Entire crops covering tens of thousands of acres were lost and over
400,000 cattle perished in arid pastures.
As the first heavily-populated oil-exporting country to ratify the
Kyoto Protocol, Mexico has a long history in the international climate
change negotiations and strongly emphasizes the importance of
multilateralism. The country’s efforts at the COP16 in Cancun, which
successfully resuscitated the UNFCCC process following the bungled COP15
in Copenhagen, are generally recognized as a diplomatic triumph.
Dr. Tudela also commented that Mexico views climate change as an
incentive to advance sustainability. The delegation is committed to
helping the country move towards a low carbon resilient economy, a shift
in thinking partially based on the government’s endorsement of the study The Economics of Climate Change in Mexico. The
study states that climate change has and will continue to have
significant impacts on the Mexican economy and details impacts on a
variety of sectors including agriculture, tourism, infrastructure and
The report states that the total costs of climate change by the year
2100 are the equivalent of around 6.2% of Mexican GDP, excluding
livestock production, extreme weather events, sea level rise and
nonmarket costs in terms of biodiversity and human lives. The costs of
mitigating emissions by 50% by the year 2100, relative to 2002, are
between 0.7% and 2.2% of GDP, figures that make a very strong case on
why inaction could prove so detrimental.
Dr. Tudela also highlighted the importance of every country doing its
best to work towards securing a successful outcome at the UNFCCC talks,
while also being ambitious at the national level. Even though Mexico’s
developing country status precludes it from legal commitments under the
Kyoto Protocol, its Special Program
on Climate 2009-2012 sets out an aspirational target to reduce national
GHG emissions 50% by 2050 with year 2000 emissions as the baseline.
However, the Program states that this target will only be met if
developed countries provide unprecedented levels of financial and
technological support under a multilateral regime.
Mexico’s desire to be a leader in green growth saw its Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources sign a cooperation agreement
in September 2011 with the UNEP, which will assist in creating and
operating a new Mexican Center for Sustainable Development. The Center
will aim to become a regional hub for the region, fostering cooperation
on low-carbon growth and green economy issues.
In the chaotic corridors and meeting rooms of the COP17, Dr. Tudela’s
thoughtful and softly spoken comments are emblematic of a country
quietly ‘getting on with it’. As we wrapped up the interview it seemed
more likely that the overall goals of the UNFCCC could be met if more
countries like Mexico brought positive experiences and pragmatic
attitudes to the table.